Beef Braciole

Beef braciole, also known simply as braciole, is a traditional Italian dish consisting of thinly sliced beef rolled with a savory filling, then braised in a tomato-based sauce. It is a beloved comfort food in Italian cuisine, particularly in regions such as Southern Italy, where it originated. The name “braciole” comes from the Italian word “braciola,” which refers to a thin slice of meat.

History:

The history of beef braciole dates back centuries and is deeply rooted in Italian culinary traditions, particularly in regions like Campania, Calabria, and Sicily. Its origins can be traced to the rural and agrarian lifestyle of Southern Italy, where families made the most of simple, readily available ingredients.

The dish likely evolved as a way to tenderize tougher cuts of meat through slow cooking methods. In traditional Italian households, families would often raise their own livestock, including beef cattle, and braciole provided a flavorful and economical way to utilize cuts of meat that were less tender.

Preparation:

The preparation of beef braciole involves thinly slicing beef, typically from cuts like flank steak or top round, into large, thin sheets. These sheets of beef are then pounded to further tenderize them and create a uniform thickness. Next, they are seasoned with salt, pepper, and often other herbs and spices, depending on regional variations and family recipes.

The filling for braciole varies widely based on personal preference and regional influences. Common fillings include a mixture of breadcrumbs, grated cheese (such as Parmesan or Pecorino Romano), garlic, parsley, and sometimes cured meats like prosciutto or salami. Some recipes may also include pine nuts, raisins, or other ingredients for added flavor and texture.

Once the beef slices are seasoned and filled, they are rolled up tightly and secured with butcher’s twine or toothpicks to hold their shape during cooking. The rolled braciole are then seared in a hot pan to brown the exterior and develop flavor before being simmered in a tomato-based sauce.

Serving:

Beef braciole is typically served as a main course, accompanied by pasta or crusty bread to soak up the flavorful sauce. It is a hearty and satisfying dish that is perfect for family gatherings and special occasions.

Over time, variations of braciole have emerged, reflecting the diverse culinary traditions of different regions in Italy and the creative adaptations of home cooks and chefs around the world. While the basic concept of thinly sliced beef rolled with a savory filling remains consistent, each recipe may incorporate unique ingredients and techniques passed down through generations.

Beef braciole is a classic Italian dish with deep historical roots and a rich culinary tradition. Its enduring popularity is a testament to its delicious flavors, comforting qualities, and the enduring appeal of rustic, homemade cooking.

Ingredients:

For the beef:
  • 4 slices of beef topside or flank steak (about 150g each)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 slices of prosciutto
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Olive oil, for frying
For the tomato sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh basil leaves, torn, for garnish

Preparation:

1. Prepare the beef slices:
  1. Lay the beef slices flat on a clean surface and season both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Place a slice of prosciutto on each beef slice.
  3. In a bowl, mix together the grated Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, minced garlic, and chopped fresh parsley.
  4. Spread the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the prosciutto slices on each beef slice.
2. Roll up the beef:
  1. Starting from one end, roll up each beef slice tightly into a spiral.
  2. Secure the rolls with toothpicks or kitchen twine to hold their shape during cooking.
3. Brown the beef rolls:
  1. Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Carefully place the beef rolls in the pan, seam side down, and brown them on all sides until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side.
  3. Once browned, transfer the beef rolls to a plate and set aside.
4. Prepare the tomato sauce:
  1. In the same frying pan, add a bit more olive oil if needed.
  2. Add the finely chopped onion and minced garlic to the pan and sauté until softened, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and dried oregano, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  4. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and let it cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened.
5. Cook the beef rolls in the tomato sauce:
  1. Carefully return the browned beef rolls to the pan with the tomato sauce, nestling them in the sauce.
  2. Spoon some of the sauce over the tops of the beef rolls.
  3. Cover the pan with a lid and let the beef rolls simmer gently in the sauce for about 20-25 minutes, or until the beef is cooked through and tender.
6. Serve:
  1. Once the beef rolls are cooked, remove them from the pan and transfer to a serving platter.
  2. Spoon the tomato sauce over the beef rolls and garnish with torn fresh basil leaves.
  3. Serve the beef braciole hot, accompanied by your favorite side dishes such as pasta, mashed potatoes, or crusty bread.
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