I’m not sure why it took me so long to post a recipe for braciole, because it’s something my mother-in-law Mary made almost every time we visited, during my marriage to my late husband. Mary, who was from Abruzzo, had a limited repertoire of dishes, but whatever she served was delicious. There was almost always spaghetti with meatballs and braciole, followed by a roast chicken and potatoes. Many recipes for braciole are more elaborate than hers, including ingredients like prosciutto, or hard-boiled eggs. Those are delicious practically as meals in themselves, but Mary’s braciole was a simple roll of meat, seasoned inside with only parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. They were a perfect accompaniment to the pasta that was dressed with the long-simmering sauce from the braciole. For these braciole, I have added a bit of grated parmesan cheese to add a little more flavor, something Mary didn’t do if I remember correctly, but it’s essentially the same recipe as hers. You need a very thin piece of beef for this recipe, and you can either purchase it already sliced (as I did from my local grocery store), or buy a piece of top or bottom round, or flank steak. Slice it thinly and pound it until it’s even thinner. If you freeze the beef slightly, it’s easier to slice. Then season it with salt, pepper, minced garlic, parsley and a grating of parmesan cheese.
Roll it tightly and secure with toothpicks (or string if you prefer).
Sauté in some olive oil until browned.
Then add it to your favorite tomato sauce recipe and simmer for about two hours. This photo was taken while my kitchen was being renovated and I was using a hot plate to cook most meals. I love cooking with a gas stove, but this induction-heating hot plate worked remarkably fast and well as a temporary cooktop.
Serve the braciole with pasta of your choosing. In this case, I used cavatappi, but rigatoni or even spaghetti would be great too.
By the way – Italian language lesson for the day – the correct pronunciation is bra-CHOH’-leh, not bra-ZHUL’, as you might have heard in some films featuring Italian Americans. Braciole is the plural of braciola. In most places in Italy, you’ll find a rolled and stuffed piece of meat or swordfish called involtini. The term braciole most likely is derived from the Italian word “brace” meaning coals or embers, and if you order braciole from a menu in much of Italy, you’ll most likely be served a grilled piece of meat. What is called involtini in Northern Italy became braciole in southern Italy — a dish made of tougher meat that was pounded and simmered for hours in tomato sauce to make it more tender. Since the majority of immigrants to the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were from Southern Italy, the term braciole took hold here. To complicate things even further, small rolls of braciole, like those I made, can be accurately called “braciolette” or little braciole – not to be confused with “braccialetti” or bracelets. Whatever you call them, they are delicious and the perfect Sunday (or any day) meal.
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- a few pieces of top or bottom round
- salt, pepper
- minced garlic
- minced parsley
- grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Slice the meat thinly and pound to make it even flatter.
- Sprinkle with salt, pepper, the minced garlic and parsley and a scattering of parmesan or pecorino cheese.
- Roll up and secure with toothpicks or string.
- Sauté in olive oil, then add to your favorite tomato sauce recipe and simmer for two hours.
- Serve with pasta.