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Braciole: Italian cooking at finest

I grew up in an Italian neighborhood and to say I ate well was an understatement. My friend’s parents were always cooking, including cannoli, linguine and, mama mia, braciole.

For anyone who’s never experienced the sheer culinary pleasure of beef (or in some cases pork or chicken) wrapped around a succulent cheese or vegetable filling and then slowly simmered in a fabulous sauce, you have not truly experienced Italian cooking at its finest.

A braciole is so much more than just stuffed meat (I suggest a beef loin, butterflied for your first attempt). It’s a meal all by itself. There exist many variations on the recipe. Changing the type of cheese and adding assorted vegetables can significantly change the taste and texture. Basically the sky is the limit, but remember to pound the meat very thin and then spread the filling on one half of the meat and roll it up jelly roll style.

Quick Baked Cheaters Braciole

3 teaspoons minced garlic

1 cup parsley, minced

1 cup diced green bell peppers

1 tablespoon paprika

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 ounces parmesan cheese

16 ounces beef loin

1/4 teaspoon McCormick Montreal steak seasoning, plus a little extra

1 teaspoon pepper

2 cups spaghetti sauce

In a bowl combine the minced garlic, parsley, bell pepper, paprika, olive oil and parmesan. Mix to combine and set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Fillet the beef, making it one thin long piece. Season the meat with steak seasoning and spread the oil mixture on top of the meat. Roll the meat jelly roll style, making sure the filling stays put. Secure the bundle with toothpicks or with twine. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking baking pan with olive oil and place the braciole in the pan. Drizzle extra olive oil on top of braciole and season outside of beef with the steak seasoning. Bake for 15 minutes then pour the sauce over the top, reduce the heat to 350 degrees, cover and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.

When braciole is done, remove from the sauce, let sit for 5 minutes, slice into four pieces, place on a serving plate and drizzle the sauce over the top and serve. Serves 4.

Braciole

2 pounds thin, flat beef (such as top round)

Salt and pepper

4 to 6 slices prosciutto

5 tablespoons olive oil divided

3/4 cup toasted breadcrumbs

3/4 cup grated Romano cheese

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/3 cup freshly chopped Italian parsley

1/3 cup pine nuts

Fresh oregano to taste

3 hard boiled eggs, chopped

1 cup dry red wine

1/4 cup of tomato paste

Fresh or dried basil to your taste

1 28-ounce can whole Italian plum tomatoes, crushed with juices

2 bay leaves

Tenderize the meat until it’s about 1/4 of an inch thick. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Place the prosciutto slices on meat, leaving about 1 inch all the way around edges open. In a bowl combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, breadcrumbs grated cheese, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, parsley, pine nuts and oregano. Mix to combine. Spoon the breadcrumb mixture on top of prosciutto. Sprinkle the chopped eggs on top of the breadcrumb mixture. Roll the beef up tightly, making sure to tuck in the ends. Use a toothpick or string to secure.

Heat the remaining oil in skillet. Brown all sides. Remove the meat from the pan and set it aside. Don’t clean the pan, add the wine and stir. In a separate bowl combine the basil and tomato paste; mix well. Put a little of this sauce on bottom of pan. Place the roll back to pan. Pour the remaining sauce over the meat and add enough water or beef stock to cover 2/3 up the side of the rolls. Add the bay leaves and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 2 hours, basting the meat every 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the meat from pan, cover and let sit for 15 minutes before serving. If the sauce is too thick, you may want to cook it down a little more after you remove the meat. After meat has cooled remove the toothpicks or string, slice and serve covered with sauce. Serves 4 to 6.

Hungarian Husos Tekercs

1 pound sirloin tip steak or bottom round, fat trimmed and reserved

1/2 pound lean ground pork

1 large and 1 small finely chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

Black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon minced garlic

6 hard-cooked eggs, left whole

1 cup water

1 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons tomato sauce

1 sliced green or red pepper

Pound the beef on a piece of plastic wrap or flexible mat until it is very thin. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ground pork, small chopped onion, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste. Spread it evenly on the flattened beef.

Place the eggs horizontally, end to end, about 2 inches from the bottom of the meat. Using the plastic wrap or flexible mat as an aid, roll the meat so the eggs are completely enclosed. Tie with butcher’s string if necessary.

In a Dutch oven, place the reserved beef fat trimmings and melt. Add large chopped onion and saute until translucent. Move onion to the sides of the pan and add the meat roll to the center. Cook covered for 10 minutes.

Mix together 1 cup water, paprika and tomato sauce. Pour over meat and place pepper slices around it. Cook, covered, for 1 1/2 hours on very low heat. Remove to a platter and keep warm.

Puree the vegetables and pan drippings and season to taste. Slice beef roll and top with sauce. Serve with rice or boiled potatoes. Serves 4 to 6.

– Submitted by George Sardocci of Glenview Ill. – Modified from Epicurean.com – Recipe submitted by Barbara Rolek from About.com Guide Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at ztlog@verizon.net or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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