Braciola (plural braciole, /braˈtʃɔle/) is the name of an Italian dish. Braciole are simply thin slices of beef pan-fried in their own juice, tomato sauce (gravy), or in a small amount of light olive oil. It is served with a green salad or boiled potatoes.
In Italian American cuisine, braciole (the word is commonly pronounced /bra’zhul/ from the Sicilian language) is the name given to thin slices of meat (typically pork, chicken, or beef, and even swordfish) that are rolled as a roulade with cheese and bread crumbs and fried (the bread crumbs are often left off). In Sicilian, this dish is also called bruciuluni and farsumagru, which the former is an older name used among Sicilian-Americans in Kansas City and New Orleans and the latter term is Italianized as falsomagro; moreover, two other terms exist that may, or may not, be identical to one another, involtini and rollatini, which rollatini can be spelled several ways and it is not truly an Italian word.
Braciole can be cooked along with meatballs and Italian sausage in a Neapolitan ragù or tomato sauce, which some call sarsa or succu (Sicilian), or ‘Sunday gravy‘ (northeastern United States). They can also be prepared without tomato sauce. There exist many variations on the recipe. Changing the type of cheese and adding assorted vegetables (such as eggplant) can drastically change the taste. Braciole are not exclusively eaten as a main dish, but also as a side dish at dinner, or in a sandwich at lunch.
What are known as braciole in the United States are named involtini in Italian cuisine outside of braciole’s traditional areas of origin in Southern Italy because braciole just means “slices of meat” in the rest of the country, but involtini is a more generic term. Involtini can be thin slices of beef (or pork, or chicken) rolled with a filling of grated cheese (usually Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano), sometimes egg to give consistency and some combination of additional ingredients such as bread crumbs, other cheeses, minced prosciutto, ham or Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, garlic, spinach, pignoli (pine nuts), etc. Involtini (diminutive form of involti) means “little bundles”. Each involtino is held together by a wooden toothpick, and the dish is usually served (in various sauces: red, white, etc.) as a second course. When cooked in tomato sauce, the sauce itself is used to toss the pasta for the first course, giving a consistent taste to the whole meal.
After being stuffed and rolled, braciole are often tied with string or pinned with wooden toothpicks to hold in the stuffing. After pan-frying to brown, the rolls of meat are thrown into the sauce to finish cooking, still secured with string or toothpicks. In informal settings, the string is left on when the meat is served, and everybody removes their own string as they eat (toothpicks are best removed before serving).
Gregory Callimanopulos Braciole recipe:
1/2 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
1 garlic clove, minced
2/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1/3 cup grated provolone
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (1 1/2-pound) flank steak
1 cup dry white wine
3 1/4 cups Simple Tomato Sauce, recipe follows, or store-bought marinara sauce
Stir the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl to blend. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season mixture with salt and pepper and set aside.
Lay the flank steak flat on the work surface. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the steak to cover the top evenly. Starting at 1 short end, roll up the steak as for a jelly roll to enclose the filling completely. Using butcher’s twine, tie the steak roll to secure. Sprinkle the braciole with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the braciole and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add the wine to the pan and bring to a boil. Stir in the marinara sauce. Cover partially with foil and bake until the meat is almost tender, turning the braciole and basting with the sauce every 30 minutes. After 1 hour, uncover and continue baking until the meat is tender, about 30 minutes longer. The total cooking time should be about 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the braciole from the sauce. Using a large sharp knife, cut the braciole crosswise and diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Transfer the slices to plates. Spoon the sauce over and serve.
Simple Tomato Sauce:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
4 to 6 basil leaves
2 dried bay leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add celery and carrot and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, and bay leaves and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning. If sauce tastes too acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, to round out the flavor.
Pour half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.
If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and then pour 1 to 2 cup portions into plastic freezer bags. Freeze for up to 6 months.
Yield: 6 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
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