Beef garofolato is a Roman recipe that is now difficult to find even in local trattorias. Perhaps due to the quality of the meat and the long cooking times, garofolato is one of the few Roman recipes that does not come from poor cooking, in fact the use of the round or staff and the abundance of cloves limited this to most people.
Once upon a time, its sauce was used to flavor the classic fettuccine, or the famous rigatoni so loved by Roman cuisine.
The origin of its name derives from the abundant use of cloves, called garofolo in Roman dialect, an oriental spice widely cultivated in Indonesia and Madagascar which, when dried, takes the shape of a nail (that’s why cloves are called ‘chiodi di garofano’ in Italian).
The first to use cloves for medical purposes were the Chinese who used them for their antioxidant, anesthetic and disinfectant properties (and still today they are the best natural remedy for toothache). They arrived in Europe thanks to the Arabs and became so famous that their price reached stellar figures, so much so that in the thirteenth century Dante mentions them in the Inferno – Hell of the Divine Comedy to describe those who wasted money.
The custom still presents in many families of sticking cloves in an orange to put on the radiator to perfume the environment, however, was born in Naples to purify the air during the plague.
It should be noted that due to their presumed aphrodisiac effect, their use was forbidden to monks (to the good connoisseur...)!
Returning to Roman cuisine, it is thought that garofolato was already being prepared in the Middle Ages and that only rich families could afford the use of cloves due to their high cost. Of the most recent version of this recipe, traces can be found in the first half of the 18th century mentioned by a Roman cook named Francesco Leonardi.
To prepare the garofolato, marinate the round of beef overnight in red wine.
The next day we drain and make incisions in the meat where we will put a mixture made up of lard, garlic, marjoram, oregano, a clove, salt and pepper.
Put some oil in a saucepan and brown the meat on all sides, then pour in the red wine, when the alcohol has evaporated add the crushed tomatoes and water. Season with salt and pepper and a spoonful of cloves which we put in a tied gauze.
Let it cook for about 3 hours and, when it has cooled, cut it into slices and flavor it with its sauce.
In the glass I chose a Tuscan red obtained with an old method called "Governo all'uso toscano" (governed at the Tuscan way), with the addition of slightly dried grapes after a few months from the first fermentation. This causes a second fermentation which gives body to the wine itself and makes it perfect for such an important meat dish.