Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cuban Liver with Onions & Peppers

Cuban beef liver Higado a la Italiana
Liver evokes powerful emotions in many people: Either you love the distinctive flavor, texture and aroma of this nutritious organ meat, or you're repulsed by its mere mention. If the latter describes you, then now's the time to stop reading this post--but if you're like me and enjoy well-prepared beef liver, this recipe is for you.

As far back as I can remember, I loved liver, especially the way my Mom prepared it. My father wasn't too keen on it, however, and my sister couldn't tolerate even the odor of raw or cooking liver. This meant that my Mom and I didn't get to enjoy it as often as we wished, but on those rare occasions when she cooked liver, there was plenty for both of us. Lucky for me, Greg loves liver as much or more than I do, and raves every time I make this recipe

The following is an old, traditional Cuban recipe for liver with onions & peppers, which is how I make it today and very close to the way my Mom used to make it (she used vinegar only and no wine). In Cuba, this dish is called "Higado a la Italiana," which translates to "Italian-style liver." I find this rather amusing because as far as I know--and according to every Cuban cookbook I've looked at--this dish doesn't exist in Italy. For best flavor and nutrition, I recommend using fresh, organic beef liver, or at least the highest quality you can find and afford. And be careful not to overcook the liver, or it will get tough. Serve this Cuban liver with pepper and onions over cooked white rice (makes 4 servings).

Liver with pepper & onions
Higado a la Italiana (Cuban Liver w/ onions & peppers)
1 lb beef liver
1 large onion
1 large green bell pepper
1/2 to 2/3 cup white wine*
1/3 to 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar*
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 bay leaf
2 Tbs olive oil for frying

*Note: Use 2/3 cup wine & 1/3 cup vinegar for a mellower tang, or 1/2 cup each for a tangier flavor. Or, omit the wine altogether and use 1 cup vinegar (that is how my Mom made it).

Slice the liver, onions & peppers into long, thin slices. Place in a shallow, lidded container or large, resealable plastic bag.

In a small bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients except the oil. Pour this marinade over the liver & vegetables, cover/seal, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (I let it marinate for 3 hrs), turning or shaking once or twice. 

To cook, heat the olive oil in a large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the marinated peppers & onions (leave the liver & marinade in the fridge) and saute until soft and the onion is translucent. Reduce heat just a little, add the liver AND the marinade, and cook, stirring frequently, until the liver is done (about 10 to 12 minutes, being careful not to overcook the liver). This dish is best eaten right away over cooked white rice. Unlike other Cuban dishes, leftovers won't be as good because re-heating the liver tends to toughen it.

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company


  1. Actually fegato (venetian for liver) was on the menu at a few of the restaurants when I visted Venice, Italy a few years ago. Being of cuban extraction myself and a lover of liver cooked the cuban way, i had to try it. The texture, taste and way it's served (with short grain rice as a side dish) was indeed reminiscent of the higado a la italiana i grew up with. So i guess the name is fitting!

  2. Fascinating! I've never seen or heard of an Italian liver recipe similar to the Cuban version, but that's really neat that you found one at a restaurant in Venice, and that it was served with rice rather than pasta. Thanks so much for sharing that info, and for reading my blog.
    Zestfully yours,

  3. Found this reference too "Fegato alla Veneziana Recipe" - finely sliced liver with gently stewed onions, is one of the most classic Venetian dishes, and even those who do not usually like liver enjoy it. Great recipe. Thank you for sharing!! <3

    1. Wonderful! Thanks for that reference <3 I'll have to try the Venetian version someday. Have you ever made it and if so, would you be willing to share your recipe?
      Zestfully yours,