Grandma Adele’s recipe for Capretto al Forno (roasted goat)
Recipe provided by Melissa Muller and printed with permission.
This luscious goat dish is an old recipe of my husband Fabio’s family and we prepare it traditionally for the holidays. At Christmas and Easter, the local shepherd gifts us a suckling baby goat fed off the milk of its mother goat, who grazes on the array of wild herbs and grasses on the lands of our family’s farm. So, for the holiday dinner, my mother-in-law, Adele and I prepare a succulent meal of the roasted goat, along with stewed peas and roasted potatoes.
Nonna Adele cooks from her heart, like most Sicilian matriarchs, without paying attention to the exact amounts of onions and tomatoes, nor to the temperature of the oven. In fact, before marrying my husband, she provided this recipe for my cookbook, Sicily (published by Rizzoli in 2017). Her instructions were as follows: “in a roasting pan assemble pieces of goat that are not too small, but not too big, along with pieces of onion, an abundance of olive oil, Vrucara wine, fresh rosemary and bay leaves.” When I asked about the cooking time, she responded: “é prontu quan’ é prontu”—“the meat is ready when it’s ready.”
Honestly for the dish to taste like Nonna Adele’s, I needed to make it next to her numerous times. In fact, as for the exact amounts of the ingredients, well, they simply need to feel right. The aromas, texture, and visual appearance of the dish speak to my mother-in-law (and now to me), indicating when the dish is ready. Ultimately, this is a very simple dish, but if rushed, or prepared without love, the end result will surely not be the same as Nonna Adele’s.
To cook the goat, and to create the perfect sughetto (or sauce-like coating) around the slow-cooked meat, Nonna Adele uses chopped peeled tomatoes and a cup of our red wine, Vrucara, which is vinified from a unique clone of Nero d’Avola grapes specific to the winery and dates back to the fifteenth century. The vines that grow the grapes for Vrucara are over one century old. The flavor profile of the wine, like that of the meat of the goat, is an expression of the land, which is constantly enriched with a steady flow of care and undivided attention from Fabio. With the exception of the salt and pepper, all the ingredients in this recipe, when cooked at Montoni, are produced and grown by us on the land, reinforcing our family bond with the uncontaminated nature that surrounds us, and making it a perfect holiday dish to celebrate life and love.
When ordering the goat, ask for one that is young and small, as the meat will be more tender. We use a whole baby goat (cut into pieces the size of a fist), as it cooks very quickly and is tender. Note that the same dish can be prepared with lamb and is equally delicious. If however, you purchase the meat without the bone, reduce the quantities approximately in half.
Goat (or Lamb)
10 pounds bone-in goat or lamb meat, cut into 3-inch segments
4 large yellow onions, cut in 1/4-inch-thick chunks
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup Nero d’Avola red wine
6 – 8 peeled plum tomatoes, chopped
10 or 12 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves roughly chopped
10 to 15 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 pounds fresh peas (about 1 pound shelled), or 1 pound frozen peas
3 cups vegetable broth
Potatoes “alla pizzaiola”
1/2 onion, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 yellow potatoes, sliced lengthwise in 6 pieces
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1. for the goat: Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. Wash the goat pieces well in a strainer. Dry and then distribute them in two deep baking pans, or one large baking pan.
3. In a saucepan, sauté the onions with a touch of olive oil until slightly brown. Then, add the tomatoes, olive oil, wine, rosemary, bay leaves, salt, and pepper and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
4. Distribute the tomato mixture with the meat in the baking pans. Mix thoroughly so that the meat is well coated with all the ingredients.
5. Bake for about 2 hours, stirring the meat several times so that all sides of the cubes are moistened by the wine, oil, and tomatoes. The cooking time will vary depending on the tenderness of the goat. The larger the goat, the tougher the meat, and therefore a longer cooking time. To test if the meat is done, remove a piece from the pan and press a fork against it. The meat cube should hold its shape but should be soft and moist.
6. Meanwhile, for the peas: In a sauté pan, combine the onion, olive oil, and a few tablespoons of water and cook over low heat until the onion is translucent. Add the peas, broth, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the broth is absorbed into the peas and the peas lose their bright green color, about 30 minutes. Taste for salt and add more accordingly.
7. Meanwhile, for the potatoes: In a baking dish, combine the onions, potatoes, tomato, oregano, olive oil and salt. Cook in the oven, along with the goat at 350°F, until the potatoes are cooked through.