AGGLASSATO braised meat with a thick onion sauce

When a food is Agglassato (from a French word glacer) it is glazed. For example if it is a cake it could be glazed with glacé icing, glace cherries are glazed with sugar, the surface of a meat Pâté or any meat or fish to be eaten cold could be glazed with a jellied stock. And to me this implies that the glaze has a sheen.

In Sicily there is a traditional dish called Agglassato also Aggrassato ( to further complicate matters it can be spelled Agrassato and Aglassato) and it is braised meat (veal, lamb, kid, tongue) cooked with large amounts of onions.It is also referred to as Carne Agrassata -meat carne =meat and it is a feminine word, therefore the ‘a’ at the end.


Once cooked, the onions become very soft, the sauce is reduced and the onions became a thick puree Agglassato can also be eaten cold. This is when the onion sauce jellies, thickens and glazes the meat.


Although this particular dish may have been influenced by French cuisine, lard rather than butter is used – lard being more common in Sicilian cuisine.

Agglassato seems to be a method of cooking meat which is fairly wide spread across Sicily with a few variations. Some use less onions, others add potatoes and in some parts of Sicily, especially in the South-eastern region grated pecorino cheese is added at the end of cooking. Sometimes the meat is cooked in one piece and held together with string, at other times it is cubed as in a stew.

The sauce (without potatoes) can also be used to dress pasta – remove some of the onion sauce for the first course (pasta) then present the meat for the second course with contorni (side vegetable dishes).


The recipe is simple.

The ratio is:

1 kg meat to 1 kg onions
200 g lard or a mixture of lard and extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper
½ -1 glass of white wine
rosemary or sage or bay leaves
meat stock (optional)

In a pan suitable for making a stew heat the lard, add the sliced onions, and herbs. Soften the onions on low heat and then add the meat (cubed or in one piece).
Toss the meat around until it is white on the surface (unlike other stews do not brown).


Add the wine, cover and cook it over low heat for about 70 minutes per kilo of meat, less if the meat is in small pieces. Remove the lid about 15-20 minutes if the contents look too watery and allow the sauce to thicken.

If you are cooking kid or lamb (this is a common recipe for Easter especially in the south east of Sicily), the following ratio of ingredients is a useful guide.

2 kg kid, or lamb on the bone, cut into stew-size pieces
800g-1kg potatoes
500g onions
100g lard or a mixture of lard and extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper
4 cloves of garlic (whole)
1 glass of white wine
rosemary or sage or bay leaves
1 cup of parsley cut finely
meat stock (optional)
100 g grated pecorino cheese

In a pan suitable for making a stew heat the lard, add the sliced onions, garlic and herbs (but not the parsley).
Soften the onions and then add the meat.
Toss the meat around until it is white on the surface. Add the wine, cover and cook it over low heat for about 50-60 minutes. Check for moisture and add splashes of stock or water if the stew looks too dry. In Sicily kid and lamb are slaughtered as young animals and depending on the age and tenderness of your meat you may need to cook it for longer.
Peel and cut the potatoes into small chunks and add them to the stew. Add parsley and stock or water to almost cover the potatoes and cook until they are done (probably 30 minutes).
At the end of cooking sprinkle with grated pecorino.


In a previous post I have written about how my father used to cook tongue (lingua) in this way. Now and again he would also cook meat instead of tongue

See Recipe: Carne Aglassata-  Glazed tongue in onion sauce

Below is a photo of the whole tongue( lingua)  – this is removed from the sauce and sliced before being served.


Carne Aglassata – Glazed tongue in onion sauce

Carne Aglassata is a Sicilian recipe  and it is meat braised slowly with plenty of onions. The resulting sauce, once reduced, acts as a glaze for the meat.


Carne Aglassata is reputed to have been one of the typical dishes of Palermo as cooked by the Monsù – derived from the word monsieur – a French or French-trained cook employed in the homes of the wealthy in Sicily (and southern Italy) during the 1800s’ and early 19th centuries.

Some of the Monsù were French but others were Piedmontese, as Piedmont had been under French control in the late 1700s and early 1800s. These cooks influenced the local Sicilian cuisine by adding flair to what usually resulted in elaborate French inspired dishes. They were show off dishes and were often very decadent and rich; some are described in The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) the novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa which gives an account about the changes in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento .

For some reason that I have never been able to comprehend, my father who had never cooked for the family when we lived in Italy regularly cooked lingua (tongue) aglassata when we first came to Australia. The standard recipe for aglassata is for carne (meat) and it is usually for the yearling cut called the girello or silverside.

He cooked this on a Sunday morning – we had the sauce with rigatoni or penne for lunch and the meat for main course. Most of the sauce was used to dress pasta and some of the sauce was reserved for the tongue.Sometimes he added peas during the last stages of the cooking. Obviously you could also include the tongue in the sauce as the dressing for the pasta.


Lard is usually used for the cooking of Carne aglassata – I used olive oil to cook it. Because tongue can be quite fatty I cooked the dish the day before and skimmed off the fat the next day. I also cut off the back part of the tongue which goes into the throat because this part is also quite fatty.

I then added about 1 tablespoon of lard when I reheated it – the lard helps to make the sauce glossy.



One ox tongue, about 4 large onions, 1 glass of white wine, rosemary and sage, salt, pepper, about ½ cup altogether of extra virgin olive oil and lard (pig fat).

To peel the tongue:
Wash it really well- I used a vegetable brush to scrub it. You can even use a clean kitchen brush to scrub it.
Place it in a saucepan and cover it with cold water, cover the lid and boil it until the skin turns white. This took about 30 minutes.
Drain it and peel the skin off while it is still hot. The skin is very thick and will come off easily.


Select a saucepan that will hold the tongue comfortably but that will not need a large amount of water to cover it.
Slice the onions, place them in a saucepan with the oil and herbs, salt and pepper. Add some water, just to cover the tongue. Cover the saucepan with a lid and slowly simmer the tongue for about 2 hours.
Add the white wine, cover and continue to cook it for another 30 minutes.
Place the saucepan in the fridge overnight and skim off the fat the next day.
Remove the tongue and heat the sauce on high heat to thicken the sauce. Add about a tablespoon of lard while it is thickening, this helps to gloss the sauce.
Slice the tongue and return it to the sauce to heat. Use it to dress the pasta or as meat.

I pressed the leftover tongue for another occasion.