There is nothing wrong with Horse meat (Braciole di Cavallo alla Barese)

In case you haven’t noticed: there is a big scandal unfolding in Europe, regarding horse meat being sold as beef. Now there is nothing wrong with eating horse meat — it is healthy, lean, and tasty. The problem is that if it says on a package that something contains 100% beef, it should not be horse instead. Since horse meat is quite a bit cheaper than beef, this scam has been widespread and more ‘beef’ products that actually contain horse are discovered on a daily basis throughout Europe. We can only hope that the horse meat used in the beef products is good-quality horse meat, i.e. meat from horses that have not been treated with medication that renders it unfit for human consumption. (If you buy horse meat from your butcher, you can be sure that this has been checked due to a strict registration system.)

Even though the butcher I frequent specializes in horse meat and is even famous for his horse sausage, I had never before prepared horse meat. My butcher is pretty happy with the scandal by the way: his horse meat sales have gone up by as much as 40%! Because of the ongoing scandal and because the Braciole alla Barese I prepared recently were traditionally made with horse meat, I thought it would be nice to prepare braciole with horse meat and share my experience with you. They turned out just as nicely as the beef braciole, and I doubt that I would be able to tell them apart in a blind tasting. (In a comment on my post about beef braciole, Valentina, who is originally from Bari, pointed out that nowadays beef is the norm rather than horse.)

Braciole are thin slices of horse meat (or beef) stuffed with garlic, parsley, and cheese, which are rolled up and cooked slowly in a tomato sauce. The tomato sauce will become very flavorful and can be served with pasta as a primo piatto, followed by the braciole themselves with the remaining sauce and a green salad as secondo piatto. I thought it would be nice to make them with basil, red wine,  pecorino, and orechiette this time (rather than oregano, white wine, parmigiano, and fusilli as I did with the beef version).

(The series of recipes from Conor’s visit will continue tomorrow.)


For 2 servings

2 slices of horse sirloin, pounded thin (ask your butcher for scaloppine from horse rather than veal), about 300 grams (.66 lbs)

1 can peeled tomatoes (400 grams/14 oz)

6 fresh basil leaves (plus more as garnish for the pasta)

150 grams (.33 lbs) orechiette pasta

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp chopped fresh flatleaf parsley

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

30 grams (6 Tbsp) freshly grated pecorino (plus for as garnish for the pasta)

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

80 ml (1/3 cup) red wine, preferably the same as you will serve with the dish


Combine the pecorino, parsley and garlic in a small bowl and stir until homogeneous.

Pat the horse scaloppine dry with paper towels and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides.

Cover the horse scaloppine with the cheese mixture, spread out evenly.

Roll up tightly and secure with toothpicks.

Heat the olive oil in a casserole that is just big enough to hold the bundles over high heat. Add the bundles.

Brown the bundles over high heat on all sides.

Take the bundles out of the casserole and set aside. Deglaze the pan with the red wine.

Cook over medium heat until half of the wine has evaporated, scraping all the nice brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula.

Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor and add to the casserole.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and bring to a boil, stirring.

Add the horse bundles and baste them with the sauce. Lower the heat to a simmer.

Cover partially and allow to simmer for about an hour, turning the bundles now and then to cook them evenly.

Cut the basil into small strips with a sharp knife (basil loses its aroma more quickly when you chop and thus bruise it) and add to the casserole.

Stir in the basil and cook for 5 minutes longer.

If the sauce is not thick enough, remove the horse bundles and cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring, until it has the desired thickness. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Boil the orechiette al dente in salted water according to package instructions and drain. Dress them with 2/3 of the tomato sauce. Return the horse bundles to the pan and cover to keep them warm while you eat the primo piatto.

Add freshly grated pecorino and more basil to the pasta.

Toss to mix.

Serve immediately on warm plates.

Serve the horse bundles with the remaining sauce with a green salad, cutting them crosswise so you can see the layers inside.

Wine pairing

This is good with a red wine from indigenous grapes from the province of Bari with good acidity: Castel del Monte, or another red made from Uva di Troia grapes. Wines made from other indigenous grapes with good acidity like Gaglioppo or Aglianico would also work, also if they are from Campania or Calabria rather than Puglia. Primitivo or Negroamaro wines such as Salice Salentino or wines made with new oak are be too heavy and would overpower the fresh flavors of the braciole. We enjoyed them with a 2009 Cirò Duca Sanfelice Riserva from Librandi, a very elegant wine from gaglioppo grapes. It reminded us a bit of a light barolo or a pinot noir.

38 thoughts on “There is nothing wrong with Horse meat (Braciole di Cavallo alla Barese)

  1. No – there is nothing wrong with horse meat! Norway was also “inflicted” by the so-called scandal.Thank you for sharing!

    I think you will enjoy the “Culinary surprises”, recipes section of ThorNews – Norwegian food.. See:

    And some quirky Norwegian food news: Organized Smuggling of Chinese Garlic From Norway

    Thor: :


  2. I read a book a few years ago talking about how food was adulterated with fillers, stuff not fit for consumption, dangerous chemicals, etc to make food look pretty and to make a quick profit. They were talking about the 1600’s up to the early 1900’s. Unfortunately it seems we still have to worry what we are buying.


  3. It isn’t surprising to me that horse meat and beef taste similar, as both animals are grazers and eat the same sorts of things. But I agree that it’s important people know what they’re eating. The idea that it’s unethical to pass something off as something else made me think about a practice we often do with our kids. Hiding veggies in foods kids “like” is not all that different from the adulterated beef and may not be such a good idea, after all!


      1. My little guy has taken to dissecting everything I put before him in case I’m putting one over one him. I now tell him about all the ingredients, show them to him and try to get him interested in the good things they’ll do for his body. He’s now eating a lot more things and will even try things he calls “spicy.” That would be anything with more than one ingredient lol


  4. I love it Stefan. It looks very tasty. I was reading earlier about another Irish factory selling horse as beef. No harm in the meat, if it is good meat to start with but it appears to be wholesale deception across Europe.


  5. For me its not so much the horse meat, its the amazingly complex trail that goes from a dead animal to a burger or packet of mince. It’s weird that so many different companies are involved in the process of creating a crappy burger. And many of these firms are simply shifting raw meat from one place to another. I think it’s another example of the EU losing the plot.


    1. I agree that it doesn’t make a lot of sense how much shifting of raw meat is going on. I am not sure what the EU has to do with that though (apart from enabling trade, but that is mostly a good thing).
      It doesn’t bother as much anyway, since I buy all my burger meat or mince from my butcher where it is ground in front of me.


  6. Eating horse is absolutely taboo here in the US, especially in Kentucky where our economy is deeply rooted in horse racing. Having been raised on a beef farm, I don’t really understand why eating horse is so off-putting to people. They too are animals with hooves, who eat grass, and can do hard work. Is it because they are so visually appealing? Regardless of that, it is creepy to think that the meat industry has been lying about the contents of it’s products. Makes you want to homestead and prepare all your own food from start to finish. Gorgeous dish and one that this American would not be afraid to try.


    1. Thanks. Here it is only taboo for teenage girls 😉
      The homestead idea appeals, but then I should move to a better climate and a country with more space first. (And be so rich that I can afford to hire people to tend the crops and livestock for me. I’ll stick to cooking all of it.)


  7. Lovely meal, Stefan. In the US horse meat isn’t sold for human consumption but it’s processed for animal food and there are strict regulations on it even then. It’s a “noble beast” thing. I would imagine its flavor is very similar to beef albeit a little leaner. I have no aversion to eating horse meat but I fear I am in the distinct minority.


    1. Thanks, Richard.
      Here the minority is the opposite — i.e. the minority of teenage horse-adoring girls that won’t eat it.
      Racing horses are treated with medicine that makes them unfit for human consumption, but what you are saying about the US policy sounds a bit like the US raw milk cheese policy 😉


  8. Hi Stefan, I’ve been directed here via Conor Bofin’s site. I agree, nothing wrong with horse meat in itself, if your culture enjoys it.

    Obviously the problem is that this is unidentified meat, without a ‘pasport’. Nobody knows what pharmaceuticals were in it before it died, what diseases it bore. Meat that potentially contains banned chemicals is a worry.

    It shows up the problem going on today with mass produced food. The problem is greed from both the the supermarkets who turn a blind eye and the meat processors, one of which has already been caught out putting banned growth promoters into its produce.


    1. Thanks for visiting!
      I agree that the lack of ‘passport’ is worrisome. I buy all of my meat from a butcher who is processing it right in front of me, which gives some comfort. But I realise that not everyone can afford that.


  9. Thanks for this, about time we Brits shook off our non- horse eating conditioning. The point is we just have to be aware if what we are eating- and nothing wrong with ethically reared horse. Thanks for a fine recipe! Tracey


  10. A great braciole recipe, Stefan. It looks delicious, as does your orecchiette. I wish people on this side of The Pond would be as interested in how all of our meat gets to the table as they are ensuring horse meat doesn’t.


  11. Is this in England? Didn’t realise horse meat had seen a surge in popularity here as well! I agree with what you say about cooking from scratch – then you know what you’re dealing with! I also agree that the scandal has been overhyped, although there is a worry that the horse meat would have drugs in it. However as I saw in The Telegraph, apparently you would need to eat 600 horse burgers with bute in to feel any of the blood disorder side effects. I blogged on the subject today at:


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