Traditional Italian Beef Stew as My Nonna Used to Make It!

This traditional Italian beef stew is the most typical winter dish. Warming and very tasty, it’s easy to make and most of the ingredients are likely to be already in your pantry and fridge.

The Italian word for this beef stew is “lesso” and is popular across the country. To give you another common word so that you understand what’s the Italian lesso, it’s basically the Italian-style pot au feu.

Apart from high-quality beef, the veggies that make this dish are very simple such as carrots, potatoes, and onions. Also the process is pretty simple but there are a few steps that have been passed down through generations so they should be followed diligently.

Our traditional Italian beef stew recipe is easy and quite affordable, not too long to make and doesn’t keep you too busy. Using the pressure cooker makes it also very fast, so a great main dish for busy working moms!

We go over the full process and I’m sure after you make it once, it will become a staple in your home because of how nutritious it is and what a perfect warming comfort food for cold winter days makes.

This recipe is measured for four people but you will easily have some leftovers so you can keep some for one more meal the day after.

Image: Italian beef stew lesso.

Traditional Nonna Italian beef stew – Ingredients

  • Potatoes. I suggest you opt for organic potatoes so you can keep the peel.
  • Tomatoes. If you don’t have both fresh and sundried tomatoes, you can just use one of the two types. I think sundried tomatoes are a better addition.
  • Parsley. We don’t chop the parsley, we rather add a tied-up bunch that we can easily remove.
  • Garlic. This is optional, don’t worry if you don’t have it or if you don’t like it.
  • The meat. We usually make it with beef but it’s very common also with sheep. We tend to choose lean and fat-free meat.
  • The consommé. The best way to serve your Italian beef stew is certainly with an initial consommé. You can serve only the warm broth before the rest of the veggies, you can serve it with small pieces of toasted bread, or you can cook a bit of soup-type small pasta in the same broth and serve it at the beginning of your meal. It’s a perfect winter comfort food.
Image: Soup made with the broth of the Italian beef stew.

Traditional Italian beef stew – Instructions + tips

  • Skimming process. This is so important that I’ve seen it all my life from my grandma to my parents so I think it’s a step you shouldn’t skip. It’s quite fast.
  • Get everything ready. When the meat is going through the first boiling prepare the veggies because once the skimming process is over, you immediately need to add the veggies and close the pressure cooker.

Traditional Italian beef stew variations

  • White turnip. My husband is from Afghanistan and he told me that they make it there too but they also add white turnip. Now, the classic Italian beef stew that I know and I’ve always been eating doesn’t have turnip but I’m quite sure it gives a good flavor.
  • Chicken. Along with the beef, you can also add a piece of chicken. I haven’t tried it but I think they make it this way in Tuscany.
  • Veal shank. Adding sliced veal shank gives a much richer taste. In Italy, when you go buy the meat for the lesso, the butcher doesn’t automatically give you also the veal shank but you can ask him and they always have it.

Don’t you fancy meat? Check out our fresh tuna stew and our lentil stew!

Pinterest image with two photos of pot au feu and a caption reading "Easy recipe for Italian beef stew".

Italian Beef Stew Lesso Recipe

Easy recipe for the traditional Italian beef stew recipe.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people


  • 1 Pressure cooker
  • 1 Large kitchen knife
  • 1 Skimmer
  • 1 Small bowl optional


  • 800 gr beef
  • 2 onions
  • 4 potatoes
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 5 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 sundried tomatoes
  • parsley
  • salt
  • 2 garlic cloves optional
  • 100 gr small pasta for a soup


  • Start by cutting the meat into large pieces and washing it.
    Image: Italian beef stew meat.
  • Place the meat in the pressure cooker and cover with water. Don't cover it with the lid because, in this step, you just need to boil it to remove the excess fat.
    Image: Skimming the excess fat in the Italian beef stew.
  • While the meat is going through the first boiling step, wash and cut the carrots and the celery into large pieces, the cherry tomatoes and the potatoes in half, and the onions just peeled but leave them whole. Finely chop the sundried tomatoes.
  • When you see that the meat starts releasing its fat, already after 15 minutes, you can start removing it with a skimmer. You need to repeat this process a few times for at least half an hour until the water is clean.
    Image: Clean water after skimming the fat in the Italian beef stew.
  • Once the water with the meat is clean, add all the veggies and the salt.
    Image: Veggies of the Italian beef stew.
  • Add a bit of water to cover everything and close the pressure cooker with the lid.
  • Cook it for 30 minutes from the whistle.
  • Serve it on a large plate where you place both pieces of meat and the veggies. You can open your meal with a little broth or by cooking a bit of soup-type pasta in a separate pot to serve as a consommé.
    Image: Italian beef stew lesso.
Keyword beef, easy


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