Braciole (pronounced brah-jole, according to stars of the HBO classic hit show The Sopranos) is a classic Italian dish. Thin-sliced beef stuffed, rolled, tied and braised in a tomato sauce until fork tender, braciole is a warm, comforting dish. The acidity from the tomatoes pairs perfectly with beef. Just about anything you can possibly imagine works for the stuffing.
Typically, the stuffing of the braciole will be a combination of breadcrumbs, cheese and other additions like nuts, raisins, herbs and prosciutto. I hope this doesn’t offend your Italian grandmother, but for this recipe, we are going to use a stuffing of spinach, mushrooms, butternut squash, horseradish and pecan cheddar, parsley and lemon. Wild rice would also be a great addition to the stuffing. Feel free to use what you have on hand. Let your imagination run wild!
Prep Time: 30 minutes total
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes total
4 Beef Cutlets (3-4 oz tenderized round cutlets)
Cooking string for tying beef cutlets
3 Shallots (or any onion), sliced
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Oil for browning beef (Avocado or Olive)
1 Can Fire-Roasted Tomatoes (14.5 oz diced or pureed)
2 cups Stock (Chicken, Beef or Vegetable)
Salt & Pepper for seasoning
1 bunch Spinach, quickly sauteed in butter
1 1/2 cups Mushrooms, raw, diced and sauteed in butter until cooked
1.5 cups Butternut Squash, cooked and cubed (or rice, breadcrumbs, etc)
1.5 cups Hard Cheese, shredded (you can use Parmesan or Cheddar, but almost any cheese that grates well would work)
½ bunch Parsley, chopped
Zest of ½ Lemon
Juice of ½ Lemon
Salt & Pepper for seasoning
Step 1: Make the stuffing. The spinach, mushrooms and butternut squash should all be cooked and cooled enough so that the cheese doesn’t melt once added. Combine all the stuffing ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. The stuffing should taste great on its own. If there are any leftovers, it makes a great addition to an omelet the next day!
Step 2: Stuff, roll and tie beef cutlets. Prepare your string before you start this process. I use about 5 pieces of 6-inch cooking twine for each cutlet, so a total of 20 strings. Lay your cutlet onto a cutting board and season both sides with salt. Spoon about 4 tablespoons of your stuffing onto the cutlet, leaving a little bit of room on the edges. Roll up the cutlet (starting from the shorter end) with the stuffing and face the exposed seam towards you. Now start with one piece of string and make a simple tie in the center of the roll. Make sure it’s tight enough to hold it together but not so tight that the stuffing is being squeezed out the ends. Next, make a tie at each far end of the roll and finish with a tie between each end and center. Doing so will help keep the shape of the roll even. Repeat these steps for all your cutlets.
Step 3: Sear beef rolls in the cooking pan. This pan should be big enough to hold all the rolls and the sauce. Heat your oil on medium-high heat until hot and place rolls into pan. Brown the rolls for 2-3 minutes per side, turning about 4 times. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but getting a little color on the outside will produce some great flavor on the meat and in the pan. If there is any stuffing coming out of the rolls, feel free to remove it from the pan. Once browned, about 10 minutes, remove the rolls and set aside.
Step 4: Prepare the sauce. In the leftover oil and browned bits, add your shallot and cook for a couple minutes, stirring. Add the garlic and cook another two minutes, stirring. Now deglaze the pan by adding the stock. Scrape up any brown material on the bottom of the pan by scraping it up with your cooking utensil. Bring the stock to a simmer and add the canned tomato. Bring everything to a simmer once again and season with salt and pepper. Taste the sauce at this point and add more seasoning if necessary. It should already be tasting good.
Step 5: Place beef rolls into the sauce, turn to coat, cover and simmer on low. This dish can be simmered on the stove top or put into a 325-degree oven (provided the pan is oven proof). Check the dish after about ten minutes to make sure the simmering is consistent and gentle, not too vigorous. Simmer the mixture for about 45 minutes (the halfway point). Now carefully remove the lid and turn the beef rolls over onto the other side, perhaps placing in a different spot in the pan. Simmer another 45 minutes.
Step 6: Test for doneness after about 1 1/2 hours. A fork should be able to pierce the beef rolls and pull out fairly easily. If the meat is holding onto the fork just a little bit, that’s fine. If the roll still feels too firm, simmer for another 15-20 minutes and check again for doneness. Once the meat is fully cooked, remove the pan from the heat and carefully move the beef rolls onto a cutting board.
Step 7: Prepare your dish. Once the rolls have cooled slightly, take a knife and slice about an ⅛ of an inch into each roll. You only want to go deep enough so that you are cutting through each string, but not too far into the middle. Remove the strings carefully without disturbing the rolls too much. Once you are ready to serve, slice each roll crosswise into ¾ inch medallions. Spoon the sauce onto the plate or bowl and serve the slices of the beef rolls on top of the sauce. Serve the braciole with your favorite sides, such as rice and vegetables. Enjoy!