Tbsp. olive oil
boneless chuck roast (3 to 3 ½ pounds)
lb. sliced pancetta, diced (or ½ cup thinly sliced and finely chopped prosciutto)
medium onion, finely chopped
medium carrot, finely chopped
celery ribs, finely chopped
garlic cloves, minced
sprigs (4 to 6 inches long) fresh thyme
sprigs (6 to 8 inches long) fresh rosemary
Tbsp. tomato paste
cups Barolo or other full-bodied red wine, such as Côtes du Rhône or Gigondas
heavy ovenproof pot (4 to 5 quarts) with lid
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Heat oil in pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Meanwhile, pat meat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In the heavy ovenproof pot, brown the meat in hot oil on all sides, about 10 minutes total. (If the bottom of the pot begins to scorch, lower the heat to medium.) Transfer meat to a plate using a fork and tongs. Pour off half the oil.
Add pancetta to oil in pot and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until browned and fat is rendered, about 3 minutes. (If using prosciutto, add it to the pot with the onion, carrot and celery.) Add onion, carrot, and celery, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and golden-brown. Add garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and sauté, stirring, until garlic begins to soften. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and boil until liquid is reduced by about one-third. Add water and bring to a simmer. At this point the cooking liquid should taste lightly salted. Return meat along with any juices accumulated to the pot. Cover pot with lid and transfer to oven. Braise until meat is very tender, 2½ to 3 hours.
Cool completely in sauce, uncovered, and then chill, covered, for 2 to 3 days. Flip the meat every day so it absorbs the cooking liquid evenly. For serving, discard fat from the surface of the sauce, along with the herb stems. Cut meat across the grain into ½ inch slices, removing excess fat as desired. If the sauce needs thickening, boil it over high heat until reduced by about one-third. Season with salt. Return meat slices to sauce and reheat, covered, in a 350-degrees oven. Serve accompanied with soft polenta or red potatoes (unpeeled) mashed with crème fraîche.
Substituting smoked bacon for the pancetta can overwhelm the flavor of the wine.