Sundays always meant church, then food…and lots of it. Sunday was a day of rest for most people, but Grandpa had to work at least 1/2 day at the ravioli store. And Grandma (nonna), well, she didn’t have that luxury. Her day started early with the cooking and what women in those days did. Gravy, I guess sauce to some but in our house we had GRAVY on Sunday, had to get an early start so it would be cooked and ready when dinner time came.
Now Sunday gravy always had meat in it. Meatballs were on the side and whatever else went in. But the staple, the main ingredient was the braciole. This was rolled and stuffed meat cooked for hours in the gravy almost until it fell apart. But somehow Grandma always kept it together. Tender and delicious, this is a memory. I’ve seen many recipes for braciole. Some with pork (great on the grill). Some with thin slices of beef ( you can buy it like this). But Grandma’s had texture. It had body. It was special. Here is beef braciole, the way my nonna made it. The best.
1 whole flank steak, about a pound laid flat
In a bowl mix bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, some pepper, chopped garlic and olive oil. The mixture should be crumbly
Spread the stuffing mixture evenly over the beef and let it sit for a minute so the flavors absorb.
Starting from the wider end, roll the meat tightly being careful not to lose any of the stuffing. Tie off the ends and the middle using good, white string.
In a tall pot, big enough to hold your gravy, heat some olive oil and a few cuts of garlic. When the oil is hot carefully place the braciole in and let it brown on all sided. This should take no longer than ten minutes (remember, you are BROWNING, not cooking.)
When the meat is browned all over, take it out and make your gravy (sauce to some) with some tomato paste and good, plum tomatoes. Let that blend. Then return the braciole to the pot. Let it simmer, not boil. The longer it simmers, the better the gravy, and the more tender the braciole. Grandma was not against letting her gravy cook for 4-5 hours.
Remove the braciole and allow it to cool. Remove the string and slice into pieces from 1/2 to 1 inch thick and plate .
Now the most important part…Eat. Mangia. Mangia bambino!!
Also, and just so you know, the braciole is used to flavor the gravy. Keep that in mind because this does take some time. So make it worth it and spend a little extra on some good pasta.
So, that’s it. A truly Sicilian/Neopolitan dish sure to satisfy any appetite.
Thanks Nonna. Grazie molto!