Braciole Barese – Meat involtini from Apulia, Italy
By The Well Seasoned Traveler
Traditional Weekend fare in the city of Bari, in Apulia. Italy. Its unmistakable aroma lingering in the streets of Bari on any given Sunday is unforgettable. Like many peasant dishes, it carries the hallmark of simplicity elevated to heaven.
Meat pounded thin rolled together with other ingredients, from the traditional Canestrato Pugliese cheese to spinach, to prosciutto and cheese and beyond, held together with a piece of string, or simply a couple if toothpicks, seared, then slowly simmered in tomato sauce until it becomes a “sugo”, a dense velvety multi-layer flavored sauce with caramelized tomato umami typical of Italy. The tomato has a very high value in the Italian gastronomic universe “what you put in, is what will come out” goes a traditional Barese saying. Tomato is the heart and soul of this dish.
In 79 AD, one of history’s most famous catastrophes rocked central Italy when Mount Vesuvius erupted, spewing lava and ash hundreds of miles into the surrounding area. But the disaster had an unexpected upside in the nearby Agro Sarnese-Nocerino region, turns out, volcanic ash is great for soil, slowly enriching it over time with vital minerals and nutrients. Combined with the mild climate of the area, it makes for the perfect conditions to grow extremely delicious tomatoes.
Traditionally made with horse meat, yes, the same as mortadella, the main ingredient of the dish has switched to beef as of the last hundred years or so. Made with lesser cuts of meat, such as the shoulder or the round, thinly sliced beef top round seems to fit this dish to perfection.
To eat a Braciole appetizer scooping the juices with “pane di Altamura” on a table overlooking the Adriatic on a temperate Mediterranean spring evening should be on every food lover’s bucket list.
Traditional Braciole al Sugo from a Pugliese Nonna.
INGREDIENTS (you can buy ingredients HERE)
2lb of Thinly sliced meat (top Round works well)
1 can Plum Tomato
1 can Tomato paste
1 medium onion and 1 carrot
1 stick of celery
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
(POSSIBLE) FILLING FOR BRACIOLE - Quantities at your discretion
Salt & pepper to taste
Cut your stuffing accordingly. Carrots and onions julienned, and other vegetables or farce meats cut so that they can be rolled up into the beef
Stuff the meat with your chosen filling
Fold the meat into a roll and secure them with twine or, if you are an Italian Nonna, with a couple of toothpicks
Heat oil in a saucepan with sliced onion, carrot cut in wedges and chopped celery
Add the rolls and brown/sear, blend with the wine
Add the tomato puree, mashed plum tomatoes and spices
Dilute with water if necessary and cook over low heat until the sauce turns into a creamy Sugo the consistency of apple sauce
Traditionally serve with Orecchiette or your pasta of choice
-Keeping it authentic-
In Apulia, and traditionally, the Sugo, or the sauce from the stew is served over orecchiette as “Primo Piatto” or first course and the meat is served as the “Secondo Piatto” or second course (pièce de résistance). In 21st Century America, I feel it is OK to serve them together without having any Barese ancestors turning in their graves.