March: If It’s Sunday, It’s Braciole!

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The Braciole, Braciole, and More Braciole Series – Part 1

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Buon giorno!

When I was growing up in our little house in Binghamton, NY, Braciole was a big deal. It wasn’t part of those random Tuesday night dinners with sauce. It was reserved for special family gatherings, usually on Sundays. If you’re Italian, you know what I mean – the kind that lasted for 3 hours.  Even as a child, I knew If It’s Sunday, It’s Braciole! My mother, Loretta, would make it a day ahead. She used lard in it, as so many really good cooks did in those days. Ah, everything tasted better then.

Because Braciole is so memorable to Italians and in Italian cooking, I decided that it warranted a series of posts- specifically three –  and not just one. Thus, The Braciole, Braciole, and More Braciole Series seemed inevitable! Is it THAT good? Yes, it is—and it’s also about that memory thing again. It is a part of the fond memories of most Italians who can recite who in their upbringing made the very best. In my case, it would definitely be my mother.

Ok – so you’re not Italian, and don’t have the inside skinny on what we’re talking about here. Braciole is a classic Italian meat dish – pronounced “bra-shol-e” – accent on the second syllable. It is probably found in every region in Italy in some form and using all different types of meat. In some regions, it is called “involtini”. The traditional Neapolitan preparation uses rolled beef – usually top round or flank steak. It is pounded thin, stuffed, rolled, tied with string, browned in olive oil, and then left to simmer in a beautiful sea of tomato sauce until done. That is the style we will use to begin our series. When the Braciole is ready to be served, each roll is removed from the sauce. The strings are clipped and discarded, and the rolls are cut into beautiful slices revealing the stuffing within.

The Braciole is often served with pasta. The pasta is served first, with the sliced meat usually following. One of my favorite ways to eat the Braciole in sauce is with polenta. The sauce is always quite flavorful and makes the polenta a beautiful receptacle for its red goodness – not to mention a lovely choice to have with the meat. That is the way you will see it in the series, but you can just as easily serve it with your favorite pasta.

Later in the series, we will take a turn with the Braciole and prepare it in a completely different way using pork tenderloin. This will be a complete departure from the slowly cooked Braciole in sauce. Stay tuned!

Loretta most often made one or two large rolls. In this series, we’ll make some smaller ones – so each person has his own “personal Braciole”. If you’d like to make the larger ones, you can, using the same instructions. Just use larger pieces of meat. The first recipe for Braciole is one my mother made often: Braciole Napoletana . A recipe for a simple tomato sauce for the “grand simmer” is included.

This is how it’s done:

BRACIOLE NAPOLETANA

(first recipe in the Braciole Series)

Makes: about 6 smaller individual ones or 1 or 2 large ones

Serves: 4 – 6

Prep: 30-35 min.

Cook: 2 1/2 hours

Ingredients

1 1/2 lb beef top round or flank steak – if meat is thick butterfly it or ask your butcher to do this. You’ll want thin slices of meat for rolling.

Olive Oil

1/2 c. Chopped Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley

1/2 c. Dry Breadcrumbs

1/2 c. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese or Grated Aged Provolone Cheese

2 tbsp. Garlic chopped finely

1/2 c. Pignolis – toast them a little

Salt and Pepper to taste

Toothpicks or string (butcher’s twine) to secure the rolls

3-4 Tbsp. Olive oil for browning

Tomato Sauce ( see recipe for this to follow)

Instructions

You’ll need a mallet or something heavy to pound the meat. This type of mallet comes with a side with sharp points for tenderizing.

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Lay the meat out on a board. Pound with a mallet to thin and beat with tenderizer side to further tenderize the meat.

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If making  smaller ones cut the meat into 5-6” slices.

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Rub each slice with olive oil. Follow with a sprinkle of chopped parsley, breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic, pignolis and salt and pepper to taste.

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Roll each slice vertically and secure with toothpicks or string.

You can use 2 or 3 strings to secure the smaller ones. If making large ones, use more string or toothpicks.

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Brown the rolls in olive oil. When finished – remove them and make the sauce in the same pan.

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TOMATO SAUCE

Prep: 5 min.

Cook: 2 1/2 hours for Braciole

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. Olive oil

2 Cloves Garlic chopped

1 c. Red Wine

1 28 oz. Can San Marzano Tomatoes – give them a quick turn or 2 in the blender first

1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste (dilute the paste in 1/2 c. water – stir well until dissolved into the water)

2 Tbsp. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley – chopped

1 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano leaves – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil – chopped

1 Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Rind

Instructions:

Add Olive oil to the pan. Add garlic and cook a minute or two. Do not burn the garlic.

If using the sauce for Braciole, add the browned rolls back to the pan now.

With your heat turned up to medium high, add the red wine and scraped up the bits from the bottom of the pan.

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Turn the rolls to coat in the wine as it cooks down for a couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes to the pan, followed by the paste in water, herbs, and rind.

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Cover the pan or pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours . Stir gently occasionally to turn the rolls.

Uncover the pot for the last hour of cooking to thicken.

Remove rolls before serving and remove and discard toothpicks and strings. Slice the rolls thickly.

Serve with plenty of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The Braciole Napoletana is lovely served with pasta or polenta and your favorite vino rosso. For polenta see the post: Polenta – It’s So Corny

Be sure to look for the next post in this series!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE

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Comments

  1. Linda,
    I have been waiting for this series.
    Absolutely, every Sunday my grandmother served
    braciole !

  2. Silvia McLoad says:

    Linda:

    I made this for dinner last night and it was absolutely fabulous. My husband loved it. Thank you very much. I will do this one again for guests.

    Silvia McLoad

    • Sylvia – When husbands like a recipe – you’ve got a winner! So happy to hear this. Thank you for sharing this with me. Enjoy!

      • My x mother n law taught me to make braciole years ago but she also used chopped hard boiled eggs in individual ones and whole ones in a large roll and when you sliced it a slice of egg would be in the center. Haven’t made it in years, think I will give it a try again.

  3. John Michillizzi Martin says:

    I did not expect to come across another Italian from Binghamton with memories of Braciole Sundays. I too am from Binghamton with an Italian grandmother an grandfather that left me with great memories of food and wine. My search was for Braciole as well as memories, looks like I found both………Ciao!

    • Great to hear from you, John. I think many of us in Binghamton must have been eating from the same menu on Sundays! Our memories are all wrapped up in the food. There are 3 Braciole recipes on the website. Hope you continue to enjoy Linda’s Italian Table and will check in again!

      • Rich Colonna says:

        How odd that I found this recipe from someone form Binghamton! I live in Philly now and was just in Endicott at my mom’s last month and she made her amazing braciole, the same I ate growing up with my grandparents, aunts and uncles. My grandfather was from a region north of Naples, but this recipe seems about the same. I am looking forward to trying it today for Palm Sunday.

        Buon apettito:)

        • Rich –
          It is always nice to hear from folks from the hometown area. Braciole was a favorite item on most of our Sunday menus growing up. I hope you enjoy the recipe.

  4. Looks wonderful!!

  5. Looks lovely. We have this as a special meal but pronounced bra-zhul and the braciole are made the same way as here but also served with small meatballs and spicy italian sausage in the tomato sauce.
    Must be my fav meal.

  6. Mary (Piarulli) Post says:

    Linda, I can’s wait to try this. My Dad was Italian, my Mother was not. Mom made a few Italian dishes but not many. She did make Pa. Dutch food, which is also very good. Thank you for this post.

    • Mary – What a wonderful and interesting blend in your heritage – Italian and Dutch! I used to enjoy the Pa. Dutch country when I was in college as it was nearby. Enjoy the Braciole!

  7. Jo Vendice says:

    Hi, Linda–We had braciole most every Sunday, along with meatballs and pork, all cooked in homemade sauce. My father was from Gaeta, Italy, and my mother was an Irish girl from the Boston area. They were both transplants to Sonoma County, CA, where our family now lives. My father taught my mother how to cook and to keep it authentic. The only thing that was different was that my mother put raisins in her braciole, giving it a little sweetness. I was so happy to see your recipe. I haven’t had it in years and I plan to make it next week!

    • Jo –
      Thank you for sharing your memory. Sundays were special weren’t they – all with Braciole, meatballs, sausage – the works! My father taught my mother to cook as well though my mother’s family was from Lazio. She became an amazing cook. The raisins in your mother’s braciole sound like a little Sicilian influence as they use raisins a good bit. I hope you enjoy the braciole. Thank you for trying the recipe!

  8. What does the cheese rind do? I assume it adds flavor or saltiness but im not sure. Thanks!

    • Ray – AH! The rind – the Italian trick! When you add a cheese rind to a sauce, the cheese flavor subtly permeates the sauce. It provides more than salt – adding the cheese flavor without overwhelming the sauce. You can tell the sauce is delicious – but you can’t detect an outright cheesy flavor. It is a great addition.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom! I grew up on sunday Italian meals with grandma in Argentina! Since we moved to the states we haven’t had many of those…nor have they been italian HA! I was looking for a good traditional braciole recipe to give my husband a taste of what I grew up eating, HE LOVED IT! I can’t wait to cook this for my family on sunday! Thanks so much!

    • Carla – Good to hear that you like the Braciole recipe. This was a standard in our house at Sunday dinners as well. I hope your family enjoys it!

  10. I would love to make this the day before. Do I cook I whole thing with the sauce and refrigerate or can I just brown ; wrap in plastic then finish with the sauce the next day? I’m thinking that the bits of meat from the braciole is key for the sauce.

    • Rosey – You certainly can freeze it or refrigerate it a day ahead, but I would not do it in 2 steps. You are correct in that you want the meat preparation to flavor the sauce. Complete the recipe and then refrigerate or freeze. Enjoy!

  11. Linda,

    My Mom has made Briciole the same way your recipe goes as well as putting the hard boiled egg in it. She has also made it with different meats inside of the pounded steak. She has used ham, salami, provolone with the parsley and garlic. We usually just had it plain with a side of spaghetti, of course homemade sauce. I love this and will definitely be passing the recipe along to my boys.

    Lori

    • Thank you, Lori. I love hearing about the experiences of other Italian kitchens. Your Mom’s variations are interesting and sound wonderful. We are so lucky to have these memories.

  12. Wow – am I glad to find an authentic Braciole recipe. I am of English/Irish ancestry, but had the pleasure of babysitting for an Italian family of 5 children while coming up in Florida. BONUS – the father did all of the cooking before he headed off to the night shift and I learned to cook real Italian food and they made me an honorary Italian! My friends and family LOVE all of my cooking, but on Sunday when the meatballs, sausage and now Braciole is served, they go crazy.

    I lost my recipes a few years ago and fortunately remembered most of what I learned by heart, but the Braciole was bothering me. Now I am good. THANK YOU LINDA!

    • Nancy – You are so welcome! Glad I could be of help! Thank you for visiting Linda’s Italian Table!

  13. Thanks for this great recipe…Can’t wait to make them. Brings back lots of great memories of family dinners at Grandma’s house.

  14. I was wondering I have seen a few recipes now with dry white wine added. You have red wine. What is more authentic?

    • Mike – Both are authentic. The choice of wine in Italian dishes is dictated by the preparation, sauce, whether meat is used and what type – and the flavor in the sauce you are trying to achieve. Generally speaking, the wine to use in a Sunday Sauce for instance is red. However, from there, the choices may vary. Regional differences can also play a role.

  15. Deborah Dallatore says:

    Hi Linda. Going to try this today for my Italian hubby. I was wondering which meat is better to use, the flank steak or the top round? Thank you!

    • Hello Deborah! Actually either one is fine – so use whichever is available to you at your market. I tend to use the top round more for this – but you can use either. The key is pounding the meat to thin it and tenderize it. Enjoy!

  16. Ginny Jordan says:

    Linda,
    I want to try this tomorrow but don’t know what pignolis–means. Please advise..Thanks

    Ginny

    • Ginny – Pignoli is the Italian word for pine nuts. You will find them at most grocers – sometimes in produce. You might ask for them if you cannot find them. You will find them under both the Italian name and the English. (the Italian is pronounced: Peen-yoli)

  17. Thank you Linda. Your recipe very close to my sweet Napolitan Grandma’s which we also enjoyed every Sunday in Los Angeles. She often made bracciole using pork rind. Also, all of us cousins are trying to figure out how Grandma made her”bean things.” She stuffed homemade dough with simmered pork and onions to make small rolls. Sound familliar? Loisleeb@aol.com

  18. Too funny. I too am from the Southern Tier. Started out in Owego. With family names like Cacciatore (Endicott) and Darcangelo (Vestal and Binghamton), might have some influence in the kitchen. I only recently heard of this dish and looked it up on line. How funny to find it from my homelands.. lol

  19. Dear Lidia,
    I lost my mother many years ago, but I am lucky to have most of her recipes as well as my grandmothers too. She wrote everything down for me and my sister in a book. But for some reason I don’t have a Brociole recipe? I’ve been making it just like yours for years and everyone enjoys it. So glad to see that your recipe was so similar to the one that I’ve been making that I feel that now I know for sure that I’ve been doing it right. I think my mother would be proud. Thank you so much for your Napolitan recipes, they always bring back “fond” old memories for me at my Grandmothers’ house, on Sunday’s!

    • Micheline – I am not Lidia – but this is definitely my Braciole recipe and not Lidia’s! I enjoyed your story. It seems like so many Italians have them. I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe and find it similar to your grandmother’s. Hope you will visit Linda’s Italian Table again!

      • Oh boy I’m so sorry…didn’t pay attention…but thanks for understanding. It’s nice to see that our families and their traditions are similar. It’s great to know there are people out there that still embrace their traditional family recipes.
        Italians are the best!
        My husband is Jewish but he thinks and eats like an Italian…lol!

  20. Looks delish – I’ll definitely be doing this soon. I grew up in Irish/German/Scottish family so not much in terms of Italian, unless we ordered in LOL But now I’m in Brooklyn it’s a whole new ballgame. My meatballs have gotten the thumbs up from a lot of old schoolers, so I might have to add a vowel to the end of my name 😉

    Thanks for the recipe and the tips!

    • If your meatballs are getting good marks in Brooklyn – you are definitely doing it right! Go ahead and add that vowel!

  21. I’m making this for my family supper tomorrow using Top Round as Flank went WAY up in price. Going to omit the pine nuts and perhaps increase the parsley. I will make 2 large and slice for serving control and time as there will be 10 I’m cooking for. Using your polenta recipe as 1 side and am thinking of gnocci for a second. I will serve with baked artichokes and Italian bread. Our family sangria and baked, caramelized bananas with vanilla custard for desert. I can’t wait!!!

  22. Hello!
    I am excited to try your Braciole recipe for Christmas Eve Dinner this year. You had mentioned that your mother used to make this ahead. What was her method for cooking and rewarming? We have a Church Service at 5:30 PM and we will eat Dinner afterwards and I would love to have the bulk of the meal prepped!

    Thanks!

    • Johanna – You can make the Braciole ahead and refrigerate or freeze it. If you freeze it, just thaw completely and reheat in the sauce on top of the stove.

  23. chiefWright says:

    Hi Linda-

    I’m very glad for you comments on pre-prep, so I will set an early alarm clock to prepare braciole for our office “crock pot challenge” instead of pre-prepping tonight (thank goodness I’m a morning person). I’ll make the roll & sauce early tomorrow, pop it into the crock pot, and let it simmer thru the morning in the office. Once done, rest & slice the roll, and reduce the sauce.
    My plan is to serve the braciole open face on baguette with a smear of herbed chevre, dollop of sauce, and a bit of fresh lemon basil garnish.
    With any luck, I shall blow the competition out of the pot…

Trackbacks

  1. […] In the last episode, we dealt with stuffing it in a very traditional Neapolitan way  – thus: BRACIOLE NAPOLETANA with breadcrumbs, grated cheese, pignolis, etc. In case there was any question, there is more that […]