Kiwi pie palate meets classic Italian raw beef mince dish battuta al coltello

by HomeDecorBeauty


After munching more mince pies in a week than I should have done in a year, it was time to return the favor to Kiwi photographer Andy MacDonald and introduce him to a classic dish from my home region in Italy.

In Piedmont one of the many delicacies from its rich culinary tradition is battuta al coltello, or pounded raw meat.

It’s mince, but not as you Kiwis know it. It’s a soft, melt-in-your-mouth 100g of top quality beef steak minced by hand and combined with salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil and topped with shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano.

The texture is smooth and the first bite always tastes like an Italian paradise.

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Every time I smell this flavoursome appetizer I am taken back to the rolling hills of the Langhe – the special place where I had this mouth-watering treat for the first time.

Magrin was overwhelmed with emotion after his first bite of battuta al coltello.

ANDY MACDONALD/Stuff

Magrin was overwhelmed with emotion after his first bite of battuta al coltello.

But not everyone is lucky enough to be born Italian and thus trained from an early age to savor exquisite raw beef.

The reactions from Kiwis when I talked about it have been mixed – ranging from a loud “yuck!” to cautious curiosity that they’d “give it a whirl”.

And although Andy generally loves his mince cooked in gravy and encased in pastry, I knew he could learn to appreciate the salty, palate-filling delicacy that is battuta al coltello.

Roddino is just one of the small towns in the Langhe where anyone could taste the delicious battuta la coltello.

Federico Magrin/Stuff

Roddino is just one of the small towns in the Langhe where anyone could taste the delicious battuta la coltello.

And he was keen to learn, even though he could not pronounce the name of the dish.

“Traditionally us Kiwis, we don’t really like our meat raw, we prefer it cooked in a pie,” he admitted, as I knew he would.

To introduce him to my beloved way of eating mince we went to Toret, an Italian restaurant near New Plymouth with a chef who knew how to prepare it the proper way.

Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano on top adds a subtle flavor to this simple dish.

ANDY MACDONALD/Stuff

Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano on top adds a subtle flavor to this simple dish.

Nicolo Vogliotti grew up eating battuta al coltello and so he understood what I was looking for.

“We loved to go out with our grandparents on Sundays to restaurants in the country and just have the full traditional experience,” he said.

Nicolo Vogliotti knows how to make battuta al coltello the traditional way.

ANDY MACDONALD/Stuff

Nicolo Vogliotti knows how to make battuta al coltello the traditional way.

The best match for this appetizer is a glass of Barbera red wine, which is a common house wine in many restaurants in Piedmont, Vogliotti said.

“They come from the same region, they come from the same country. So, it’s a natural match.”

Andy MacDonald / Stuff

Owner of Toret, Nicolo Vogliotti making battuta al coltello at his restaurant in Ōakura.

After what seemed like an age as Vogliotti expertly used his knife to turn steak into mince, we were finally at the stage of eating.

It would have been an impossible task to recreate a perfect copy of the original dish because in New Zealand you cannot find Fassona, a local breed of cow from Piedmont.

Because I am as far from Italy as anyone can be, I can say without fear of repercussions that we went pretty close to the original, as prime New Zealand beef is as delicious as Fassona beef.

Andy, who I may have mentioned before loves pies, proved to have a sophisticated palate, which is to say he loved it.

Andy MacDonald / Stuff

Stuff reporter Federico Magrin and visual journalist Andy MacDonald talk about the joys of a mince pie.

He loved it so much I found myself asking him questions just to stop him finishing the whole plate in one continuous mouthful.

“It’s delicious,” he said, when he could.

“This is a great use of a steak, I would be ashamed of putting fillet steak in a pie.”

Then he said something else but all I heard was “om nom nom,” or something like that.

Kiwis had mixed responses when I discussed the idea of ​​eating raw pounded meat.

ANDY MACDONALD/Stuff

Kiwis had mixed responses when I discussed the idea of ​​eating raw pounded meat.

But those sounds could have actually come from me too.

It took me less than seven minutes to devour this appetizing jewel of Northern Italian cuisine and unless you are on a special diet that physically prevents you from eating meat that hasn’t been cooked, I think you should give it a try too.

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