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Braciole, rolled slices of beef or veal, are an inventive way to make the most of a small amount of meat. Filled with a savory stuffing and slowly simmered in a tasty tomato sauce, thin slices of a less-than-tender cut take on a substantial appearance. The sauce, flavored with the meat juices, is often tossed with pasta, such as ziti or rigatoni, and served as a first course before the meat is served.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless beef top round, cut into 4 thin slices each about 1/3 inch thick 
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 4 slices prosciutto 
  • 1 thick slice provolone cheese, about 2 oz., cut into 4 equal pieces 
  • 2 Tbs. pine nuts 
  • 2 Tbs. raisins 
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped 
  • 1 cup dry red wine such as Barolo 
  • 1 cup beef broth 
  • 4 large fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or 1 can (15 oz.) chopped plum tomatoes with juices
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 
  • 3 or 4 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces 

Directions:

One at a time, place the beef slices between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound gently with a meat pounder until 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle the pounded slices on both sides with salt and pepper. Lay a slice of prosciutto and a slice of cheese on each beef slice. Sprinkle the slices evenly with the pine nuts, raisins and garlic. Roll up the slices, tucking in the ends, then tie the rolls at 1-inch intervals with kitchen string.

In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the beef rolls and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes longer. Pour in the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom, about 2 minutes.

Add the broth and tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, turning the rolls occasionally, until the beef is tender when pierced with a knife, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Check from time to time to see if the sauce is becoming too dry and add water if needed.

Uncover, scatter the parsley and basil evenly over the rolls, and cook for 2 minutes more. Transfer the rolls to a cutting board and cut into thick slices, removing and discarding the kitchen string. Transfer the slices to warmed plates, spoon the sauce over the top and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).