Ask any Italian about the Sunday dinners of their youth and with misty eyes they’ll recite what they ate, who cooked it, what it smelled like, how long they were at the table, and who sat where. It was a weekly tradition with eating as its centerpiece.
The food was more than something that satisfied hunger—it was nourishment for the soul of the entire family, passed along generations of big eaters and loud talkers.
Acting as the ceremonial chalice into which everyone put their full range of emotions—along with time-honored Italian ingredients—was the sauce. Developed for hours in a pot that showed its years in dents and heat stains, the sauce was a product of a long-practiced process of eye-balled ingredients, imprecise measurements, and a fair amount of improvisation.
That equation includes ingredients that belong in the Italian food hall of fame—plum tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onion, and perhaps some oregano, basil, red wine, and a dash of sugar, if necessary. But another major component of the sauce—and the tradition—of an all-day Italian Sunday is the braising and stewing of flavor-infusing meat.
And while meatballs and sausage deserve every ounce of praise for their flavorful talents, today’s spotlight falls squarely on braciole.
Sometimes seared in the pot as the first step in the preparation and sometimes dropped in raw to cook for hours on end, meat is the rich and hearty foundation of a memorable sauce. And while meatballs and sausage deserve every ounce of praise for their flavorful talents, today’s spotlight falls squarely on braciole.
Preparing Braciole For Sauce
For anyone who didn’t grow up with a nani, nana or nonna, braciole are cuts of meat that are stuffed with an array of ingredients before they are rolled and either tied with butcher’s twine or fastened with toothpicks. Recipes for braciole, which translates to “chops,” usually feature thin slices of tenderized beef, mainly rump, top round, bottom round or flank. Although some family traditions call for pork or veal cutlets, one truly old-school Sicilian recipe uses pork skin.
don’t count out braciole—there’s a reason it has remained a staple for generations of Sunday chefs.
As for the stuffing, this step often adheres to whatever you learned from your mother, who learned it from your grandmother, who learned it from your great-grandmother, and so forth. This can be any combination of olive oil, fresh garlic, parsley, basil, shaved parm, along with breadcrumbs and sometimes even a hard-boiled egg or two. Some recipes even call for a slice of prosciutto to be rolled into the braciole. It’s all packed in before being secured with butcher’s twine. But, if knots aren’t your area of expertise, toothpicks are a fine option, just don’t forget to remove them when it’s time to eat.
Make no mistake, braciole are labor intensive. Not only that, you’re likely to get more flavor out of pork or beef neck bones, or even oxtail, because of fat, marrow, and the very essence of the bone itself. But don’t count out braciole—there’s a reason it has remained a staple for generations of Sunday chefs.
The Role Of Braciole In Sunday Sauce
It isn’t only about what the meat does to the sauce, it’s about what the sauce does to the meat. Slow-simmered Sunday sauce penetrates braciole, further breaking down these tight and tender packages until they absolutely melt in your mouth. And while the sauce flavors braciole from the outside, the stuffing you dutifully rolled in there imparts flavor it from the inside. Garlic and parsley waft herbaceous aromatics throughout the braciole, while the parmigiana delivers its signature complexity, marked by slightly sharp nuttiness.
Aside from the delicious benefits of eating braciole, making it a part of your Sunday routine can bring the family together in a fun preparation process, connecting your family to past generations through this rustic bundle of seasoned meat.
Make It At Home With Paesana!
Braciole can be incorporated into numerous recipes using an array of Paesana’s gourmet pasta sauces, including our Marinara, Tomato Basil, and Roasted Garlic. But one of Paesana’s family recipes in particular seems tailored made for the addition of barciole. Our spaghetti with meatballs utilizes Paesana Sicilian Gravy, which is generously poured over meatballs after they are browned. You can use the same method with braciole—simply swap out the meatballs—or, even better, keep the meatballs and add braciole to the recipe.