This recipe is definitely one of my favourite, which brings back many memories every time I cook it. It smells of Puglia and of my childhood cosy home and happy meals. It makes me think of those days when I woke up and the aroma of the slow cooked meat sauce was already in the kitchen, reminding me it was Sunday.
As the braciole simmers, the meat becomes so tender that it just falls apart. You will know it is done when the sauce gets beautifully thick, its aroma fills the air and you can’t resist dipping some fresh bread in to it. This is my family recipe and the only variant to it is adding a slice of cooked ham in to each braciola before rolling it up.
Serves 4 – 6
For the beef braciole:
1.2 Kg of sliced feather steak (about 20 slices)
A little bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley
A little bunch of tender celery leaves
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 little shallot, peeled
Black pepper, freshly ground
150 g of Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino cheese, diced in to 1 inch pieces
For the sauce:
5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 big onion, diced
1 glass of dry red wine
3 x 400 g good-quality tinned chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of sugar
Lay the meat slices on a flat surface, cover with baking paper and using a steak hammer pound out it out to an even thickness – about 1/5″ thickness.
Finely chop the parsley leaves, the celery leaves, 2 g cloves of garlic and the shallot.
Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the meat slices, add some black pepper and a little dice of cheese on to each of them. Starting with a short end, tightly roll up the beef and secure with a toothpick. Set the braciole aside.
In a large saucepan heat the extra virgin olive oil on a medium heat, add the chopped onion and one clove of sliced garlic. Sauté them for a few minutes.
Add the beef braciole, stirring them for 6-7 minutes until brown on all sides. Pour in the wine and stir occasionally until almost completely evaporated. Add the chopped tomatoes, the bay leaves and the sugar. Tomatoes can be a bit acidic once they are cooked and the sugar will balance their acidity.
Bring to the boil and then reduce to simmer on low heat for 2 ½ – 3 hours. Stir occasionally making sure the meat is always covered with liquid. If necessary add ½ glass of hot water. Season it with salt only an hour before turning off the heath. The meat is ready when it becomes tender and your sauce gets thick and infused with the beautiful aromas of the braciole.
About 20 minutes before serving, bring a large pot of slightly salted water to a boil. Add 80 g per person of pasta – orecchiette or rigatoni would be perfect – and cook as the label directs. Remove the braciole from the sauce and transfer to a platter, keeping them warm. Pour half of the sauce on top. Drain the pasta and toss with the remaining sauce. Serve the braciole with the pasta topping it with some freshly grated cheese.
Another nice way to serve them is with lots of sliced fresh bread to mop up the wonderful sauce on your plate – that is called fare la scarpetta in Italian by the way! – and a mixed salad.