Goulash might not be the first thing you think about when you think about Italian food.
By Kathy Bechtel
For most of us, when we think of Italian food, goulash is not the first dish that comes to mind. Originating in Hungary, and supposedly deriving it’s name from the Hungarian gulyas, or ‘herd’, goulash is a dish first cooked by cattle and livestock herders. Traced as far back as the 9th century, Magyar (Hungarian) shepherds would prepare a stew, slowly cooking it until all the liquid was absorbed. The stew was dried in the sun, and packed in sheep’s stomachs to be carried with them as they tended their flocks. Water would be added to reconstitute the stew at mealtime.
Popular in Austria, Croatia and Slovenia, it is yet another example of the Central European influence we see on our visits to the region, especially in the mountains of Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, where you will see it referred to as goulasch in Italian. Called golas in dialect, it is a local specialty of Trieste, often found at many of the city’s traditional buffets. It hails back to the days when Trieste was main trading port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Trieste is credited with adding tomatoes as a key ingredient. It is found throughout Friuli and Trentino-Alto Adige, most commonly in the mountain areas along the Austrian border. It is usually served with polenta, potatoes, or csipetke, a pinched (csipini) noodle similar to spaetzle.
There are endless preparations for goulasch, and it can be made with a variety of meats, beef, pork, lamb and even a combination. But most use meat and onions that have been seasoned with paprika, cooking them for a long time over low heat. Paprika is a fairly recent addition, as it did not arrive in Hungary until the 16th-17th century, courtesy of Turkish invaders. The use of this fiery spice spread, well, like wild fire, as people loved it’s exotic nature, and it was believed to have the ability to ward off cholera. There are some meatless versions that use vegetables such as peppers or potatoes, which were served during hard times when meat was too expensive.
This recipe is derived from several versions I found both online and in books. I would encourage you to play with different meats and spice combinations. Here, I used smoked paprika, a bit nontraditional, but the only paprika I had! You can add vegetables like peppers, potatoes, carrots or parsnips, or add some caraway seed.Print
Kathy Bechtel’s obsession with food and cooking began as a teenager. After years following a traditional career path as a telecommunications engineer, she left to attend culinary school and wine training, and is now combining her passions for food and wine, the outdoors, and travel as owner and Culinary Tour Director of Italiaoutdoors. In this role, Kathy leads small bicycle, skiing and walking tours that explore the authentic regional cuisines, local products and undiscovered wines of Northeastern Italy.