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X Italian Meat Dishes
Pizzaiola (Lamb Chops and/or Veal Baked with Potatoes)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Campobasso
Occasion: Easter, weddings and other special times
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (her mother's recipe)

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For marinade

1 cup dry white wine
1/8 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
2 bay leaves


2 pounds veal (and/or lamb chops)
8 ripe tomatoes
3 potatoes, cut into wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt


1. Mix marinade ingredients.

2. Place the meat pieces in a container and cover it with the marinade.

3. Cover the container and place in the fridge.

4. Marinate the meat in the marinade for about 8 hours (or overnight).

5. After the meat has been marinated, remove from fridge.

6. Drain the meat pieces from the marinade, getting rid of the liquid, but keeping the herbs, except for the bay leaves.

7. Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.

8. Cut tomatoes into small pieces.

9. Peel the potatoes and cut into wedges.

10. Add olive oil to a baking pan.

11. Arrange the meat pieces in the pan, adding the tomatoes and potatoes. Cover the container.

12. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about an hour and a quarter (Check to see when it is ready).

13. Serve with salad and Italian bread.


Baked lamp chops were served at Easter and/or at weddings. Lamb was considered a delicacy and reserved for very special occasions. Veal was also seen as a delicacy, but generally speaking for Easter and weddings lamb meat was preferred. As noted in other entries farmers in Molise did not grill their meat prior to World War II as the equipment for the grilling was not available. Most households owned special cookware called a "fornicella" with which they baked in. This cookware would be placed on the hearth, and burning embers would surrounded the entire pot [For notes on the fornicella see recipe, "Grilled Lamb chops"]. So it was "slow" cooking in the real sense of the word -- took hours for the meat to be ready. Apparently, for weddings this dish was made at home and then brought to the communal oven for baking, as the hearth would obviously have been too small to accommodate all the pots. Obviously, different cooks had different combinations of herbs, but in and around Casacalenda most frequently used herbs included parsley, oregano, basil, and bay leaf. The more daring cooks added mint which grew aplenty in the region. My mother recalls that this dish was called "Pizzaiola." I asked her why but she didn't know. My cousins believe the reason this dish (and every other type of meat dish prepared in the above manner) was called this "pizzaiola" (actually pronounced "pizz'iol' in dialect) was because it uses the same topping as pizza for flavoring -- tomatoes, garlic and oregano. Photo: by the contributor.

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