Braciole is most commonly associated with Sicilian cuisine. It is traditionally thinly sliced or pounded beef, veal, or pork that is layered with breadcrumbs, cheese, and herbs. It is then rolled and tied. The classic way of cooking this roulade is to first brown it in a hot oiled pan. Some recipes recommend then boiling the roll in wine or beef stock. It is finally finished in a pot of simmering tomato sauce, either on the stove or in the oven.
I have to be honest. I have never really had a great braciole prepared this way. My close friends of Italian heritage have often invited me to share a traditional Sunday supper where tomato sauce that has been simmered for a very long time with meatballs, sausages, and braciole is the main event. The meats are removed from the sauce and reserved for a later course during the meal. The intensely meat flavored sauce is served over pasta as the second course following the appetizer or antipasti.
The sauce is delicious. However, I have struggled with the flavor of the braciole. Boiled beef just tastes very bland to me and is somewhat texturally off. I have wanted to try this dish in a manner that makes the braciole more flavorful so it can stand on its own merits.
I decided to try smoking a braciole before simmering it in tomato sauce. I completely skipped any suggested step involving boiling the beef in broth or wine. Wow! Not only is the beef so tasty, the sauce it is finished off in is infused with amazing smoky flavor. This technique takes braciole and pasta sauce to a new level that I really hadn’t anticipated.
I prepared this recipe using a charcoal smoker. It only took 1 hour for the beef to come to 150°F, which was perfect to impart plenty of smoke and to then finish off in the simmering tomato sauce for approximately 20 minutes. A Masterbuilt Electric Smoker might take a bit longer to get that smoky flavor and to come to temperature, but I think it would work perfectly. The internal temperature is not that specific. You can smoke the rolled steak to a higher temperature if desired for more smoke and tenderness. This is not a recipe that requires you to nurse the smoker other than to replenish the wood chips and water.
Smoked Beef Braciole Finished in Tomato Sauce Recipe
- 1-1/2 pound flank steak
- 4 TBS extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
- 3 or 4 slices prosciutto
- 3 or 4 slices provolone cheese
- 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 TBS minced fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Salt and pepper for seasoning the exterior
- 1/2 cup EVOO
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
- 1 carrot, grated
- 2 tsps dried oregano
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 2 quarts of good quality canned, crushed tomatoes
- 6 fresh basil leaves, rolled and sliced thinly
- 2 bay leaves
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Total time:1 hour 55 min – Prep time:25 min – Smoke time:1 hour 30 min – Serves:4 people
1. Place the flank steak between 2 sheets of plastic wrap on a cutting board. Using the smooth face of a meat mallet, pound the flank steak so that it is between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Brush one side of the beef with 1 tablespoon of EVOO. Add a layer of prosciutto to cover the steak. Then, add one layer of provolone cheese.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir in 2 tablespoons of EVOO. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the provolone cheese.
3. Starting at 1 short end, carefully roll the steak to enclose the filling completely. Using butcher’s or kitchen twine, tie the steak roll at 1 inch intervals to secure. Coat the exterior of the roll with the remaining tablespoon of EVOO. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Prepare your smoker by filling the water bowl 1/2 way with a mixture of water and dry red wine. Fill the tray with wood chips. I used oak for this recipe. Preheat to 250°F with the top vent open and the door closed.
5. Place the beef roll, seam side down on a rack inside the smoker. Cook for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours. You want the internal temperature of the braciole to be between 145°F and 165°F. Prepare the sauce while the beef is smoking.
6. Remove the beef from the smoker and submerge it in the simmering tomato sauce for 20 minutes and up to 60 minutes, turning as needed.
7. Remove the braciole from the sauce and slice it into 1/2 inch thick portions, remembering to remove the twine as you go along. Serve the beef rolls either alone with sauce spooned over the top or with cooked penne pasta and some extra parmesan cheese. Sautéed escarole is a nice side dish.
1. In a large sauce pot or Dutch oven over medium-high, heat the EVOO. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes until the onion starts to become translucent. Stir in the garlic, carrots, and oregano. Cook until the garlic and oregano are fragrant, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and stir to deglaze the pan, approximately another 3 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes, basil, and bay leaves and bring to a low boil. Turn the heat down to a slow simmer. Cover the pot and allow the sauce to simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. You want the sauce to thicken so that it isn’t watery. If too thick, you can always add a little bit of water.
3. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Add the smoked braciole and simmer it in the sauce as directed above in the “Beef” section of the recipe.
You may have some leftover sauce. It will freeze very well in 1 cup portions in sealable plastic baggies or small freezer-proof containers for weeknight meals. It should last for up to 6 months.
Escarole Sautéed in Oil and Garlic
- 2 large heads of escarole, ends removed and leaves washed and torn
- Large pot of boiling, salted water
- 1/2 cup EVOO
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced very thinly
- Salt and pepper to taste
Total time: 25 min – Prep time: 10 min – Smoke time: 15 min – Serves: 6 people
1. In a large pot of boiling water, add the escarole and cook until it wilts but it still vibrant green, approximately 3 minutes. Remove the escarole to a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking. Then, drain in a colander, pat dry with paper towels, and set aside.
2. In a large sauté pan or Dutch oven on medium heat, place the EVOO and add the garlic. As soon as the garlic becomes fragrant and starts to turn golden brown, approximately 1-1/2 minutes, add the escarole. Warm the escarole, stirring with tongs to coat with the garlic and oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Serve the escarole with the braciole.