(photo: pan simmered baby goat or capretto with onion, tomato, garlic, and red wine)
Feasting on baby goat is a staple of our Italian American Easter and Christmas dinners. My father’s mother, Nonna Rosa Scordo, made a wonderful pan simmered capretto recipe and it includes braising a whole baby goat (which is processed at home or by the local butcher).
Here’s the recipe:
- 1 large mason jar of whole crushed tomatoes with liquid
- 1-2 large onions, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups of homemade red wine (or any dry, and rustic, varietal from Italy or France)
- 8-10 large cloves of garlic
- Dried oregano
- Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt
- 1-2 cups of freshly chopped Parsley
The cooking process is straightforward and includes first searing the pieces of meat in olive oil over high heat. Note the capretto pieces should be seasoned well prior to searing. Remove the meat after nicely browning it on all sides. Add the onions and garlic and fresh olive oil to the pan and saute the for 5-10 minutes over medium heat. Next, add the tomatoes, wine, oregano, and 1/2 of the chopped parsley to the pan and mix quickly. Place the capretto pieces in the pan and simmer on low for 2.5 – 3 hours. You’re looking to braise the meat and get the consistency of shredded pork or nicely cooked beef short rubs; that is to say, the meat should fall off the bone and be fork tender!
Note that Nonna Rosa also marinated her capretto pieces for 8-10 hours prior to cooking; this step is optional in my view. Also, if you’d like to cook the dish in the oven you can simply place your all metal pan and lid in the oven and cook at 350 degrees F for 2.5-3 hours.
A Little Bit about Baby Goat or Capretto
When it comes to selecting the appropriate Capretto for a holiday meal or Sunday lunch, my grandmother was notorious for prosecuting the local butcher as to the source and freshness of the Capretto. Moreover, she had the butcher swear on his dead relatives that the Capretto was, in fact, baby goat and not adult goat which is tougher and gamier in flavor (you see once goats begin grazing on grass, they develop a mutton-like flavor which, unless you’re accustomed to such flavor, can be a little odd). The idea of prosecuting the local butcher stems from the fact that Nonna was accustomed to baby goat that was raised on her own land; fighting with the butcher in the US somehow dulled the pain of having to buy ingredients (including meat) from someone else (an unheard of concept in rural Calabria).
On the nutritional side, goat is very low in fat and cholesterol (in fact, goat is 40-60 percent lower in saturated far than chicken and beef, respectively). Capretto flavor components are rich and complex (sort of like, beef, short rib) and I encourage folks to experiment and try preparing a dish of roasted or pan simmered Capretto!