Marcella Hazan deserves the blame for addicting me to Italian cooking and through that to Italy itself. Many of the recipes in this book were introduced to me by her marvellous Classic Italian Cooking nearly twenty years ago. This one is perhaps the most memorable. I was sitting reading it in a small cafe in Firenze waiting for my companion to finish shopping, when the logic and simplicity of the recipe caught my imagination. The city was ransacked for Vitello Arrosto: many trattorie were tried, but all were found wanting. Then on the autostrada to Roma, we stopped at an Agip motorway caff, and on the blackboard: Vitello Arrosto. It was precisely as the blessed Marcella described it – a whole rump, meltingly savoury, brown exterior and possibly ever so slightly pink in the middle. There was no gravy, just the meat, some OK roast potatoes and spinach, it was bliss.
The precise cut to use for this method of roasting is important, as it will only work with prime cuts and it will only work with veal, not vitellone (see page 124). I have used a best-end here, trimmed like a rack, which will feed six people. The best alternative is a whole rump, which will be more expensive and will feed eight, maybe more. Any leftovers are wonderful the next day as sandwiches, and of course there is always vitello tonnato, using the tuna sauce.
Ask your butcher to chine the meat, leaving just the four or five ribs attached. He should also French trim the ribs and chop all bones and trimmings for you. In short the veal is like a very big rack of lamb. The trimmings can be used next time you make broth.