I had an urge this week to get in touch with my roots. Last year around this time I made Pork Chops in Sunday Sauce…it was time to make a meal like that again. I was questioning what “Italian” meal should I make when Brian suggested making Braciole. Did you know that Brian loves Braciole? And he has not had them in a really long time; I knew where this was going! Have you ever had a Braciole? They are traditionally a layer of meat that is seasoned, stuffed, and rolled up. It is then secured with toothpicks or string, and braised. Growing up my mom would make her own Braciole, but over time it became more common for her to buy them. The butcher we would use made really great ones; but here in Seattle I have not found a butcher like that one. However I am resourceful and confident that I can make them on my own. (That and I knew I would have no trouble channeling my mom through her cooking of years past.)
After speaking with my mom and going over some recipes I opted to keep my Braciole fairly simple and let the flavors of it all build and marry together as a meal. This is not a dish to make when you want a quick dinner, but the work involved results in a really delicious meal worthy of sharing. Brian came home to the apartment wafting in the aroma of braised beef simmering away in a light tomato sauce. He was grinning and commented on how good he knew it would taste.
Now traditionally you would make a Braciole and remove them from the sauce you simmer them in. You would toss some pasta with the sauce, and make a simple salad or vegetable to serve with it all. In my family you would traditionally eat your pasta first and then the Braciole with your vegetable, but however you wish to feast on it is up to you. I had decided for this meal to toss my sauce with ziti, have the Braciole on a platter, and prepared some steamed asparagus with a bit of butter and sea salt. A meal that was delightful and a tribute to my mom’s meals I grew up with. Brian feasted and took the leftovers to share with friends the next day. I accomplished the Brociole challenge, and Brian’s taste buds were beyond pleased…I made my mom proud!
Braciole in Tomato Sauce (serves 6)
2 lbs of bottom round roast, cut into ½ inch thick slices
½ cup of Italian style bread crumbs
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1/3 cup of chopped parsley
¼ cup of grated parmesan
Salami, thinly sliced (at least 2 slices per roll)
Black pepper, freshly ground
1 onion, chopped small
2 cloves of garlic, chopped small
1 bottle of dry Italian white wine
Two 28 oz cans of chopped tomatoes, one can pureed
3 bay leaves
¼ cup tomato paste
Water, if needed
¼ tsp of crushed red pepper
1 – 1 ½ lbs of pasta
Parmesan Cheese, for serving
First; in a bowl mix together your bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, & parmesan and set aside. Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap with a slice of beef on it. Cover the beef with another layer of plastic wrap and using a meat tenderizer pound your beef evenly to at least a ¼ inch thickness. Set aside when done, and repeat with the rest.
Next, lay one slice of your beef down and sprinkle with salt & black pepper. To make the Bracioles, place at least two slices of your salami over the beef; spacing to try to cover well. Place a heaping tablespoon of your bread crumb mixture evenly over the salami. Working from one end roll the beef up trying to keep the salami and bread crumb mixture secure the roll with at least two toothpicks. Set aside, and continue with the rest.
Then, place a large pot over medium heat. Heat about 2 – 3 tbsp of olive oil in the pot and then gently place in your Bracioles in the pan. Gently brown them on each side, and remove from pan when seared and reserve for later. In the hot oil add your onion and garlic stirring frequently. Once your onion begins to wilt, place your Braciole over them. (You may need to add a bit more olive oil of the pot appears to be too dry when cooking the onions.) Into the pot pour your bottle of wine and bring to a simmer, rotating the Braciole so that they cook evenly. Stir to get the bits of caramelization off your pot and into your wine as it simmers.
When your wine is reduced by 2/3 you can add in your cans of tomato, bay leaves, tomato paste, and crushed red pepper. Stir it well. Your sauce should almost cover your Braciole, if not you may add a cup or two of water to assist you. Let it all come to a simmer partially covered stirring frequently. You want to simmer it all together about 30 minutes, and reduce it by a fourth.
Finally, when your sauce is reduced be sure to taste it. At this time season it with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Remove the Braciole and place on a platter. Try to pick out the bay leaves at this time as well because they are not eatable. Toss the sauce in your pot with pasta and serve. Be sure to remember that there are toothpicks in each Braciole before eating. Eat while still warm and enjoy.