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Italian stew is usually one of two things: a meaty stew that originated from Italy, or a homemade stew with flavors and ingredients inspired by Italian pasta dishes. Common stews served in Italy include osso buco, stracotti, and spezzatino. These dishes are served year-round in Italy, becoming more common in wintertime, especially around Christmas. The sauce in Italian stew can range in texture from thin, watery broth to a thickness similar to mashed potatoes or boiled oatmeal. Many Italian stews are simply braised meat cooked in broth or wine.
In general, Italian stews are cooked using similar, low-heat methods, but they can contain many types of meat and vegetables. They can be made on the stove, in the oven, or in a slow cooker. Vegetables cooked in this type of stew are many, but include carrots, celery, and fennel. Potatoes, onion, and garlic are also common in this type of stew.
The typical Italian stew usually contains beef, but it can also contain other meats like chicken, pork, or veal. Rabbit is a highly popular stew meat in Northern Italy. Sausage is also a common meat in Italian stew.
Generally, authentic Italian stews have similar ingredients to vegetable soup, but they tend to have larger chunks of meat and vegetables and sometimes have a thicker sauce. This is not always the case, since many Italian stews are made in broth. Italian stew is usually a main dish and is often served in a bowl or on a plate alongside bread, polenta, or rice. Some stews are served on top of polenta.
Like other stews, this type of stew is generally easy to prepare and lends itself well to storing and reheating. In countries other than Italy, particularly in the United States, some dishes labeled as Italian stew are simply pasta dishes with Italian flavors that have been converted into stews, generally by reducing the broth or thickening the sauce in the mixture. Usually, this type of stew contains small, hollow noodles like macaroni or shell pasta.
Many Italian stew recipes that are most popular in Italy did not actually come from there. Since the cuisine of Italy has been influenced by other cultures nearby, common stews in Italy include some which originated in nearby areas like Hungary and Croatia. The Italian stew called jota, which contains beans and bacon and is often cooked with garlic, potatoes, and meat, originally came from Croatia.