Sunday, August 26, 2007

Italian Braciole - Bragiole - Braesiola

(photo from
Update about my broken foot: I'm on a countdown - 5 days to go and I hope to be walking again. Maybe not walking well, but at least not in a wheelchair. Back to cooking again and photographing my blog food! Back to driving again. I hope.
We went to an Italian restaurant the other night - Vessia - in Irvine. One of the chefs from Prego opened it a couple of years ago. Good food. We'd been there when it first opened and were disappointed, but last night was a big improvement. My DH ordered their Braesiola.

When I looked at the word on the menu I wondered if it was something similar to the Braciole that I've made for years. Or if it was a completely different dish. Reading the fine print it sounded very similar. Why the different spelling, I wonder? Maybe some reader of mine who is Italian, or knows Italian cuisine can tell me why a dish can have so many different spellings? I did an internet search and found several also. Confusing to me! I think the meat roll is Sicilian in origin, but it's claimed by all Italians, now.

So, I decided to take a look again at my version of this standby, Braciole - I think it's pronounced brah-jol. Our Mexican waiter butchered the word big time as well as every other Italian word he tried to pronounce. I think I previously asked an Italian how to pronounce it.

Anyway, today I read online of many variations on the braciole theme. I liked reading about the addition of pine nuts, garlic, Pecorino-Romano cheese, parsley too. Here's one version I liked. And I also like the option of cooking it on a bed of tomato sauce. I may have to try some of those options next time I make this. My recipe dates back to the 1960's.

Because refrigerators with large freezers were a new fangled thing back then, there were lots of books and articles in magazines about how to use your freezer. Hard to imagine but I even bought a small BOOK about how to freeze. It seems like second nature now. But back then we didn't have plastic bags. And initially we didn't even have plastic containers (boxes) to store or freeze in either. You just used the ceramic (lidded Pyrex) or metal containers things were cooked in. Hard to believe, I know.

Because I still have the original clipping from this recipe, it was from an article about freezing meals ahead. About buying a larger amount of meat, prepping it, then fixing half and freezing half. Seemed like a logical thing to do. Have done it every since when I make this dish.

At the time I'm sure the refrigerator manufacturers probably paid marketing writers to punch out lots of material about why we needed to have these new-fangled refrigerator-freezers so they'd have umpteen more customers. Freezers had been around for awhile, but they were tiny little cubby-holes nested inside the top of the refrigerator. And they weren't frost-free. Far from it. I remember many a time on a weekend putting bowls of hot-hot water inside the freezer unit trying to hurry-up the process of defrosting the thing. Using an ice pick to pry the chunks of ice off the sides. The opening was so clogged with ice and frost that you could hardly store anything in it. Or what was in it was completely enveloped in ice so you couldn't remove it to use it. Then there were the piles of towels you needed to use to mop of the dripping water. And sponges and bowls to mop up the water on shelves below the freezer. It was an awful process. I hated it. Hated it. Hated it. But do it every homemaker did; otherwise the freezer was a useless feature.

But then they came out with frost-free. I wasn't exactly first in line because such refrigerator/freezers were pricey and beyond the budget, but I do remember, in about 1967 finally getting one. Oh, was I excited! I can hardly believe it now, but my former husband, always pinching pennies, gave me a choice (I was a stay-at-home wife) of getting an old used car of my very own OR a new frost-free refrigerator freezer. We had one car only and he used it to go to and from work. Twice a week I took him to work and used those days for errands, shopping, etc. Then I had to pick him up from work too. The other days of the week I was at home all day. Baking, cooking, cleaning, writing letters, reading, etc. Anyway, I chose the refrigerator/freezer. I was greedy: I wanted both. But both I could not have. It was probably 5 more years before I finally had a car of my own.

So, back to freezing food and braciole. However you pronounce it, it's a very simple stuffed meat roll. You start out with round steak, cut 1" thick, then you butterfly it to make a big flat surface. Then it's filled and rolled with Italian sausage, red bell pepper strips, some cheese and a bit of bread stuffing. You tie it, bake it, adding some additional cheese near the end. Remove, let sit briefly, then slice to serve.

Italian Braciole
Recipe: Magazine recipe from 1960's
Servings: 12
2 whole round steaks -- 1" thick, butterflied
1 lb Italian sausage -- hot or sweet
1 whole onion -- sliced, separated
1 c herb-seasoned stuffing cubes -- Pepperidge Farms
1 whole egg
1/4 c water
1 whole red bell pepper -- strips
8 oz Mozzarella cheese -- packaged, sliced
1. Ask the butcher to split the steaks butterfly fashion, but not all the way; open each steak to 1 large piece. Pound both steaks with mallet until somewhat thin and tenderized. Cut pieces of kitchen string about 12-14" long and lay underneath meat at 2" intervals.
2. Cook the sausage meat briefly in a large skillet, drain well and spread meat on both steaks. Briefly sauté onions and red pepper strips in pan and spread on meat. Add stuffing mix to pan, then egg mixed with water and mix well. Do not cook stuffing. Add to steaks. Remove one slice of cheese, chop and save. Halve lengthwise remaining cheese and lay on steaks. Roll each steak carefully, keeping stuffing inside and tie meat carefully, but not too tight as meat and filling expand as they bake.
3. If cooking immediately: Place rolls in shallow baking pan large enough to hold steak and pour 3/4 cup water over rolls. Bake in moderate oven (350) for 40 minutes, basting occasionally. Sprinkle reserved chopped cheese over rolls. Bake 10 minutes longer, or until cheese melts. Remove to serving or cutting board and remove strings, then slice. Serve immediately.
4. If freezing: wrap uncooked rolls in foil; label & freeze. To bake frozen rolls: unwrap, place in baking pan and pour 3/4 cup water over. Bake in 350 oven for 1 hour and 40 minutes, basting occasionally. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake 10 minutes longer.
Serving Ideas : Wonderful with corn casserole, garlic bread, green salad.
NOTES : The magazine article from which this recipe came was about freezing entrees for ease of serving later. This entree will keep in the freezer well and can be baked right out of the freezer. Do not add the cheese until the last or it will drip off the meat.
Per Serving: 246 Calories; 19g Fat (70.7% calories from fat); 14g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 436mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 2 1/2 Fat.
To print recipe, click title at top.


Pixie said...

Bragiole is a dish I haven't had for a long time and suddenly remembered about, which led me to your food blog. :) Have to make again in the very near future! Thanks for sharing.

Carolyn T said...

You're welcome. Hope you enjoy this version.