Saturday, March 3, 2012

Italian Goulash in the Dolomites

 Yes, you heard me right - goulash - Italian goulash. Goulash (or goulasch) is mostly associated with Hungary, but the northeastern part of Italy where this is eaten once belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire -- that is until after World War I when the South Tyrol was ceded to Italy.

People in the region - now known as Trentino-Alto Adige - still speak German, as well as Italian. In a few valleys, including the Alto Adige's Val Gardena, where I just returned from, Ladino is also spoken. Ladino is a language that derives from a mixture of Celtic, Latin and the original language of the inhabitants of the area. (Not to be confused with the Ladino language mainly spoken in Israel, Turkey and Greece by descendents of Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain in 1492.)

Signs are always written in at least two languages and sometimes all three in this Northern Italian region that also is home to the Dolomite Mountains -- a fantasy land for skiers and hikers where mountain peaks  look like they were created by a fairy-tale set designer. This peak is known as the Sciliar, and is particularly picturesque.

 To ski the Val Gardena really does seem like you're in the midst of a fairy tale, especially as you round a bend and find this 17th century castle in front of you - a private residence now owned by the heirs of the artist Cy Twombly, according to one local source I spoke to.

Every now and then a horse and carriage will trot by while you're skiing, adding to the enchantment. 

The mountains and vistas are truly majestic. Sometimes they speak with a grandiose voice:

And other times just with a delicate whisper.

Occasionally a Saint Bernard dog will saunter onto the scene (without the small cask at the collar, alas).

Little chapels spring up where you'd least expect them.

Evergreen trees are more common here than say, the aspens you see along slopes in Colorado.

If you choose La Longia, you'll have 10.6 kilometers (or 6.5 miles) of uninterrupted skiing. 

Just when you think your knees will give out, you come across a frozen waterfall that gives you an excuse for a respite.

But the sweetest reward comes at my favorite mountain hut near the end of the trail - the charming Cafe Val D'Anna, where a hearty lunch always tempts.

The crispy hard bread in the basket is known as schuttelbrot, a crunchy local bread made with caraway seeds and rye and perfect with sausages and polenta.

It's hard to resist my favorite apple strudel with vanilla sauce (creme anglais). A couple of years ago, a barista working at a different restaurant on the mountain - the Mont Seuc - gave me its recipe (click here), much "cakier" and far different from the phyllo-like pastries in the typical Viennese apple strudel.

And it wouldn't be skiing in the Val Gardena without at least one bombardino to loosen you up for the next round of schussing down the mountain. This one's for you Rich. ♥

Back at the hotel, the view from the hotel room at sunset is mesmerizing. But the salt-water indoor-outdoor swimming pool also beckons - and I heed the call. ..... To be continued.

It's still not too late. Join me for a week in Italy at the end of May and live like an Italian - sightseeing, cooking and eating in a villa located in the Alban Hills near Rome. There's still time to enroll. For details go to: 

I have eaten plenty of bowls of goulash soup (recipe here) in my years of skiing in the Val Gardena, but have also enjoyed lots of more substantial goulash stews served with piping hot bowls of polenta. Here's my version for you.

Beef Goulash

Printable Recipe Here

4 pounds beef chuck, cubed

4 T. olive oil

2 large onions, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 cups dry red wine

@ 2 cups beef broth

3 T. tomato paste

3 bay leaves

4 T. sweet paprika

1 T. hot paprika

a few sprigs of fresh thyme

1 1/2 t. ground cumin

1 t. caraway seeds

In a large covered pot that is oven proof, saute the beef over medium heat in the olive oil until browned on the outside. Remove the meat from the pot and add the chopped onions, adding more olive oil if needed. When the onions are limp, add the garlic cloves and saute for a few minutes. Put the beef back into the pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Put the lid on the pot and place in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.

Serve with polenta, mashed potatoes, or noodles.

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  1. A gorgeous region I'd love to visit! what stunning landscapes and food. That goulash looks terrific.



  2. Stunning terrain! Thank you for the tour. It would be so exciting to be able to join you. For now, I am making the goulash!

  3. When you post about this area, you make me so homesick for my Bavarian Alps. When we finally get to Europe (hopefully next year), I want to visit this area. Beautiful photos, Linda. That frozen waterfall is spectacular. My Austrian Goulash is one of my most viewed recipe. Your version is very close, yet different enough that I truly want to try it. This is the kind of food that my Mutti always prepared for me. Thanks for the memories..

  4. The area looks stunning. Thanks for the awesome recipe.

  5. Utterly beautiful. Thank you for the post! Looks like a thrilling trip. Thank you Linda!

  6. Hi Linda - what fabulous photos! Oh how I miss the mountains and skiing from the years I lived in Aspen.
    Thoroughly enjoyed this post. Thank you.
    Safe travels,

  7. What a magical post - loved everything - especially the frozen waterfall. Truly professional - this is betterr than the tourist board could have produced. Great job!

  8. Winter never looked so welcoming. Saving the recipe - for this is MN and winter does not give up until mid-April. You brought me back to my youth - to my time studying in Austria - it all waved over me as I gazed at the photos.

  9. A friend of mine just came back from skiing in the French Alps. I have to say, Linda, that your photos of Val Gardena and the Dolomites are so much more picturesque than hers!

    It looks like you had a wonderful time. I'd love a big bowl of your Italian goulash served over creamy polenta sounds so delightfully filling!

  10. splendide foto Linda, splendido piatto così ricco e saporito adatto alla stagione fredda!Anche a Trieste lo facciamo così, è un secondo piatto che mangiamo con delle patate "in tecia"o con "chifeletti" di patate(le ricette sul mio blog) Buona settimana, un abbraccio....

  11. I truly adore goulash. It's a taste I picked up during my Vienna days but I still love to make it when the weather turns cold. Too bad we don't have that stunning scenery as a backdrop…

  12. What a magical place. Thank you for sharing your photos, Linda.

  13. Again my comment didn't go through, I don't know why! I love everything in this post! I want you to be my personal tour guide through Italy when I win the lottery, activities, lodging, breathtaking views and glorious food! You're the best!

  14. What an amazing post! I go to the dolomites every summer for a few days.
    The food looks very nice. Lovely blog will follow you. Viva l'Italia! Ciao!

  15. Such beautiful pictures! Your goulash looks like awesome comfort food. You always make everything look delicious.

  16. Beautiful pictures! I enjoyed skiing in Corvara,Val Badia a month ago and it was wonderful.
    Yummy goulash! You can eat it with almost anything: polenta, rice, gnocchi, mashed potatoes, or simple bread

  17. I have the taste of it in my mouth since last december....

  18. Would you like to get more visitors from New Jersey?

    Submit your blog in . This is a one time submission. This would automatically submit a preview of your future blog posts in New Jersey, with a link back to your blog.

    Enjoy more traffic from New Jersey :-)

  19. The goulash looks wonderful, but the tour of the Italian divine. Thanks for taking me along with you.

  20. There is a great mistake in the map of Italy: as it appears Trieste is in Slovenia! You missed to put a curly ground on the east coast: Trieste is there. Please correct it, too many people, some hundred thousand, died for Trieste in Italy. Where we cook a very good goulash too: we add also cumino and laurel.

  21. Mafi - I put a new map on the blog that better reflects the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, where Trieste is located.