As the weather gets colder, I love to serve my family rich braised meats. Although my son Andrew sometimes balks at these earthy, "heavy" dishes, even he can't resist beef braciole, which is also known as involtini di manzo.
While the term "braciole" can mean different things, it usually refers in Italian culinary circles to rolled-up stuffed beef that is braised in tomato sauce. The best cuts to use are top butt or eye of round.
The dish goes beautifully with polenta and sautéed greens or salad – perhaps some crisp escarole and red onions drizzled with a proper Italian dressing made from vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
Ready time: 90 minutes
2 pounds beef (top butt or eye of round), cut into 12 equal slices (about 3 ounces each)
4 tablespoons bread crumbs
1 tablespoon parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound provolone, shredded
3 tablespoons grated pecorino
Salt and pepper to taste
Flour for dusting
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup diced pancetta
1 cup diced celery
1 pound cipollini or pearl onions, peeled and blanched
1 cup diced carrots
6 garlic cloves, cut in half
2 bay leaves
2 cups white mushrooms, cut in half
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup white wine
14-ounce can whole tomatoes, each sliced lengthwise into fillets
1 cup beef stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the beef slices by pounding them into scaloppini equal in size and thickness. Mix the bread crumbs with the herbs, garlic and cheeses.
Lay the beef on a board and sprinkle evenly with the cheese and herb mixture, then roll up each slice, being careful to close the sides by folding the ends inward and securing rolls with a toothpick. Dust each roll with flour and set aside.
Place olive oil and butter in a braising pan and heat. Add the beef rolls a couple at a time and sear at high heat until all sides are golden, being careful not to burn them.
Turn heat to medium and add the pancetta, celery, pearl onions, carrots, garlic, bay leaves and mushrooms. Cover, stirring occasionally, to sweat the ingredients. Add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly; sprinkle with white wine and reduce by half.
Add the tomatoes and the stock and season with a pinch of salt and pepper, place a lid on the pan and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow pan to rest untouched for at least 10 minutes, then remove the rolls and return sauce to heat to further reduce. Remove from heat, adjust seasoning and return rolls to sauce. Cover and leave to rest until needed.
Spoon over polenta.
Chef Massimo Capra is co-owner of Mistura and Sopra Upper Lounge in Toronto and the Rainbow Room Fallsview Restaurant in Niagara Falls, Ont.