Wrapping meat cutlets around a filling has long been a thrifty cook’s trick, stretching a costly ingredient to feed more mouths. And I also like how the flavors of meat and filling mingle as they cook together, enhanced further by a tasty sauce.
These stuffed meat rolls, known as braciole–or braciolini, or involtini–seem to be more common to southern Italian cooking. Home cooking, that is. It’s rare to find them on restaurant menus.
All the more reason to make stuffed braciole at home! The round of beef is a good choice and the same techniques work well for pork loin.
I’m lucky to live near Savenor’s, Julia Child’s preferred shop, and the butchers there are still amazing. So I relax while they skillfully cut and pound thin slices. I’m pretty sure most supermarket butchers would agree to do the same but, if yours says no, the procedure is simple as long as you have a sharp knife.
The pistachio-raisin stuffing, reminiscent of Sicily, comes together quickly. Do be sure to use bread crumbs freshly made in a blender or food processor–panko is appropriate for breading meat but not for this filling.
Once in a baking dish and covered with sauce, let the braciole cook slowly in the oven until just tender. Serve with roasted vegetables or with a crisp radicchio and fennel salad.
- 2 pounds lean beef such as top round*
- 2/3 cup finely chopped onion
- Extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs toasted until dry but not browned
- 1/3 cup shelled pistachios**
- 1/3 cup raisins
- ½ cup chopped parsley or a mixture of parsley and mint
- 1 ½ cups pecorino romano cheese
- Sea salt or kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 cup red or white wine
- 3 cups homemade or prepared marinara sauce
Butterfly beef by cutting a thin slice about 1/8 inch thick, stopping ½ inch before the bottom; cut a second piece and flatten the two connected pieces to make a cutlet about 6 inches in diameter. (Alternatively, cut single slices to make smaller braciole.) Pound gently to thin even more. Continue with the rest of the beef. You should end up with 6 cutlets weighing about 5 ounces each (or 12 if you are doing smaller rolls)
Saute onion with 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet until golden, stirring in garlic toward the end. Add breadcrumbs, stirring to moisten. Stir in pistachios, raisins, parsley, ½ cup pecorino and a few grindings of black pepper. Taste and add salt if needed. Blend in beaten egg to moisten mixture.
Season beef slices on one side with salt and pepper. Place about 1/2 cup filling along center of unseasoned side, pressing to help it adhere (if making smaller rolls, use less filliing) Roll up to make a tight roll. For extra security, tie at ends and middle with cooking twine. Repeat with remaining slices.
Clean skillet and cover with a film of oil. Over medium-high heat, cooking in batches as necessary, brown braciole on seamed side. Turn and brown on the other side. Transfer to a tray.
Add wine to skillet and cook for a few minutes, scraping up browned bits. For a smooth sauce, strain mixture into a bowl and return to the skillet. Add marinara sauce and simmer a few minutes longer.
Heat oven to 325F.
Spread 1 cup of pan sauce over bottom of a baking dish just large enough to hold braciole. Line up braciole and spoon remaining sauce over them (if sauce seems too abundant, save some to pass at table). Sprinkle top with remaining 1 cup pecorino.
Cover pan with aluminium foil. Cook until meat rolls are tender but not dried out, about 1½ hours, checking often and spooning sauce over meat.
*Ideally, have a butcher slice and pound the beef as described in the first step (check thickness after the first slices). Otherwise, sharpen your best carving knife and do it yourself.
**For convenience, I often use roasted, salted pistachios and season with less salt than if using unsalted pistachios.