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What is the veal Marengo ? A dish invented for Napoleon on the evening of the battle of... Marengo

Here is a dish with an amusing history that is a pleasure to eat: veal Marengo. A dish that was not born in France at all, but in Italy and that, in its first version, was the favorite dish of the emperor Napoleon. A dish completely improvised on a battle night, so we know the exact date of its birth: June 14, 1800.


The funny origin of the Marengo calf


The battle of Marengo 

La Bataille de Marengo représentée par Louis-François Lejeune — Source inconnue, Domaine public, battle of Marengo  painted by  Louis-François Lejeune — Source inconnue, Domaine public,

On June 14, 1800, in Marengo, a hamlet of the city of Alexandria in Italy (yes, there are several Alexandria in the world), the French and the Austrians, at war, confronted each other in a battle that lined up 25,000 men on the French side and 30,000 men on the Austrian side. The French armies were commanded by a young general: Napoleon Bonaparte. And while the French were outnumbered, they were the ones who won... 


A general's hunger 

When evening came, the young Napoleon Bonaparte was hungry (as were many of his soldiers) and he asked his chief, Dunant, to concoct something for him quickly. Except that poor Dunant doesn't have much on hand because his mobile kitchen has been destroyed in the fighting and because supplies are late. So he improvised! 

Bonaparte au Pont d'Arcole, soit un an après la Bataille de Marengo / Tableau Par Antoine-Jean Gros (1801)Bonaparte at the Bridge of Arcole, one year after the Battle of Marengo / Painting by Antoine-Jean Gros (1801)


And a meal is improvised 

Dunant improvises with what he finds: here a chicken, there tomatoes, further a little garlic, olive oil too (we are in Italy then inevitably...) and he launches out by making go back the chicken in olive oil before adding the garlic and the tomatoes. So chicken... And not veal. The "chicken Marengo" became the "veal Marengo" because Bonaparte became an emperor. And an emperor doesn't eat chicken in a hurry, at least from the point of view of Dunant, his chef, who improved his original recipe by replacing the chicken with veal. This "dish of the battle of Marengo" was often requested by Napoleon to his chef throughout his reign. It was his favorite dish. 

Un plat de veau marengo / photo par TYSB/shutterstocka dish of veal marengo / photo par TYSB/shutterstock


Veals marengo : the recipe : 

For 6 people



  • 1.2 kg of sautéed veal (rather in the shoulder)
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 shallots
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 70 g of tomato paste
  • 150 g of button mushrooms
  • 25 cl of dry white wine
  • 12.5 cl of hot water
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 3 sprigs of thyme and 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • butter
  • oil
  • salt pepper 
  • possibly a little parsley

Tomato paste is what gives Marengo veal its red or orange color / Kamila Koziol/Shutterstock.ComTomato paste is what gives Marengo veal its red or orange color / Kamila Koziol/Shutterstock.Com


The process

This is a recipe for which you must take your time. For example, take your meat out of the refrigerator an hour before working with it so that it is at room temperature. And prepare your ingredients ahead of time so you can get started.

First prepare the vegetables:

  1. We prepare the garlic by crushing it and removing the germ. (too bitter)
  2. Peel the shallots and chop them finely.
  3. Peel the carrots and cut them into small cubes.
  4. We also prepare the celery stalk
  5. Finally, we prepare the mushrooms by cleaning them (sand or earth) and we cut them into strips.
  6. We clean the thyme and the laurel by passing them under water.

Then prepare the meat

  1. Cut the veal into cubes of 3 or 4 centimeters. If you are lazy, ask your butcher to do it.
  2. We pass the meat in the flour.

And to launch then.

  1. We prepare a glass of very hot water (12,5 Cl)
  2. In a cast-iron casserole, we put 20 grams of butter and 2 tablespoons of oil.
  3. One puts the meat and one makes it brown on all the faces (it is long but it is necessary). To do it: stir without ceasing.
  4. We add the shallots and the carrots that we cook 2 to 3 minutes with the meat. Stir again (you haven't finished stirring ahah).
  5. When the meat is well colored, add the tomato paste, garlic and celery and stir again.
  6. Add salt and pepper (not too much, you will correct it at the end by tasting the dish).
  7. Mix again and add the 25 Cl of white wine (2 glasses) and the hot water.
  8. Add the thyme and the bay leaf.
  9. We mix again and we close the casserole with its lid.
  10. One makes cook with soft fire during 1H30.

10 minutes before serving:

  1. One makes return to sharp fire the strips of mushrooms in a frying pan with a little butter and a spoon with soup of oil.
  2. One stirs again and often, it is better and that cooks better.

5 minutes before serving

  1. Remove the bay leaf and thyme from the pan.
  2. We add the mushrooms.
  3. Taste and rectify if it is necessary salt or pepper.


Tip :

5 minutes before serving you can add the juice of a quarter of a lemon and you can also add parsley.  

Excuse our translation errors, we were 2 to taste the veal marengo for 6... We just want: to sleep quietly. It was too good! 

discover here other savory recipes

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site.