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Italian Goulash in the Dolomites

  • March 3, 2012
  Yes, you heard me right – goulash – Italian goulash. Goulash (or goulasch) is mostly associated with Hungary, but the northeastern part of Italy where this is eaten once belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire — that is until after World War I when the South Tyrol was ceded to Italy.


People in the region – now known as Trentino-Alto Adige – still speak German, as well as Italian. In a few valleys, including the Alto Adige’s Val Gardena, where I just returned from, Ladino is also spoken. Ladino is a language that derives from a mixture of Celtic, Latin and the original language of the inhabitants of the area. (Not to be confused with the Ladino language mainly spoken in Israel, Turkey and Greece by descendents of Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain in 1492.)

Signs are always written in at least two languages and sometimes all three in this Northern Italian region that also is home to the Dolomite Mountains — a fantasy land for skiers and hikers where mountain peaks  look like they were created by a fairy-tale set designer. This peak is known as the Sciliar, and is particularly picturesque.
 To ski the Val Gardena really does seem like you’re in the midst of a fairy tale, especially as you round a bend and find this 17th century castle in front of you – a private residence now owned by the heirs of the artist Cy Twombly, according to one local source I spoke to.

Every now and then a horse and carriage will trot by while you’re skiing, adding to the enchantment.


The mountains and vistas are truly majestic. Sometimes they speak with a grandiose voice:


And other times just with a delicate whisper.
Occasionally a Saint Bernard dog will saunter onto the scene (without the small cask at the collar, alas).
Little chapels spring up where you’d least expect them.
Evergreen trees are more common here than say, the aspens you see along slopes in Colorado.
If you choose La Longia, you’ll have 10.6 kilometers (or 6.5 miles) of uninterrupted skiing.
Just when you think your knees will give out, you come across a frozen waterfall that gives you an excuse for a respite.
But the sweetest reward comes at my favorite mountain hut near the end of the trail – the charming Cafe Val D’Anna, where a hearty lunch always tempts.
The crispy hard bread in the basket is known as schuttelbrot, a crunchy local bread made with caraway seeds and rye and perfect with sausages and polenta.
It’s hard to resist my favorite apple strudel with vanilla sauce (creme anglais). A couple of years ago, a barista working at a different restaurant on the mountain – the Mont Seuc – gave me its recipe (click here), much “cakier” and far different from the phyllo-like pastries in the typical Viennese apple strudel.
And it wouldn’t be skiing in the Val Gardena without at least one bombardino to loosen you up for the next round of schussing down the mountain. This one’s for you Rich. ♥
Back at the hotel, the view from the hotel room at sunset is mesmerizing. But the salt-water indoor-outdoor swimming pool also beckons – and I heed the call. ….. To be continued.


It’s still not too late. Join me for a week in Italy at the end of May and live like an Italian – sightseeing, cooking and eating in a villa located in the Alban Hills near Rome. There’s still time to enroll. For details go to: 

I have eaten plenty of bowls of goulash soup (recipe here) in my years of skiing in the Val Gardena, but have also enjoyed lots of more substantial goulash stews served with piping hot bowls of polenta. Here’s my version for you.

Beef Goulash

Printable Recipe Here

4 pounds beef chuck, cubed
4 T. olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
@ 2 cups beef broth
3 T. tomato paste
3 bay leaves
4 T. sweet paprika
1 T. hot paprika
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 1/2 t. ground cumin
1 t. caraway seeds

In a large covered pot that is oven proof, saute the beef over medium heat in the olive oil until browned on the outside. Remove the meat from the pot and add the chopped onions, adding more olive oil if needed. When the onions are limp, add the garlic cloves and saute for a few minutes. Put the beef back into the pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Put the lid on the pot and place in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.

Serve with polenta, mashed potatoes, or noodles.

Bombardino Time and Giveaway Winner

  • March 2, 2009

I’m back …. and we have a winner chosen at random from the responses to my query about the name of the drink.
The winner is Katie of Summertree Cafe, but Katie, you don’t list your email address on your blog. So please contact me so I can send you the chocolates in the photo. Email me at with your full name and address.

I’ll be posting some recipes in the coming weeks from my visit to relatives and friends, and a week of skiing in the Italy’s Dolomite mountains.

I’ll start with the drink that several of you guessed correctly from the picture, even though naming it correctly wasn’t a requirement to winning. It’s a bombardino – great for steadying the nerves when you’re a little apprehensive about that next mogul. The drink is most popular in the winter at ski resorts and it’s made using Vov, a liqueur made with eggs, and rum or brandy or whisky, plus whipped cream on top. It’s almost like drinking a warm (and highly spiked) eggnog with whipped cream. In Italy, you can also find bottles of bombardino already mixed and ready to warm up. It’s always served in clear glass cups, sometimes with a straw and a spoon.

For those of you unable to get to Italy and enjoy a bombardino, I’m posting a recipe for the drink adapted from “Italian Kitchen Secrets.”
My aunt used to make her own Vov and stored it in a cabinet. But just to be safe, I’d recommend keeping it in the refrigerator until ready to consume.

With a foot of snow forecast here today in Central New Jersey, it might be just what you need to spur you to shovel that driveway or sidewalk.

3 cups of non-skimmed milk
29 ounces sugar
6 egg yolks
1 cup alcohol (brandy or whisky) and
1 cup rum
(or 2 cups of either brandy, whisky or rum)
1 tablespoon vanilla

Boil the milk with half of the sugar, gently mixing occasionally. Lower to a simmer and cook a couple of minutes, then turn off heat and keep warm.
In a large bowl, mix the egg yolks with the other half of the sugar until creamy and frothy. Add the warm milk in a slow stream, mixing well to avoid lumps. Filter through a strainer if necessary. Add the vanilla, alcohol and rum, mix again and pour into bottles. Wait one week before drinking (if you can), shaking the bottles occasionally.

In our opinion, bombardini are best enjoyed with a slice of apple strudel, ever prevalent on the slopes in the Val Gardena, a beautiful area of three small villages in the Dolomites. The Dolomites are the mountains in the eastern part of the Italian Alps, close to Austria, and are noted for their unique, almost-stalagtite formation and rosy color. The area at one time was below sea level, and many marine fossils are still found today. So we were actually skiing in what once was a barrier reef, hard as it seems to imagine.

Recipe for strudel to follow later.