29 May 2009
From Denny: Italian comfort food reigns supreme in Louisiana too! This is an old dish still popular today. It takes a while to make, can be done in stages, and is usually reserved for special gatherings or holidays. Long on presentation!
"Like most heritage recipes, each family adds its own special touches, which came from previous generations.
Most of the bracioline dishes in our area are stuffed with a combination of ham, prosciutto (ham of Parma), bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, salami or sausages. Some wrap the meat around whole hard-cooked eggs. Grace Guarisco slices the eggs, and her in-laws never use eggs. They wrap the meat around diced potatoes.
The recipe I’m preparing in the photo is from the late Mona Drago. She taught me to make her version of Braciolini and Tomato Gravy years ago for a Food Focus show. Her steak is stuffed with prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, cheese, bread crumbs and whole hard-cooked eggs.
The meat is thin-cut beef, top or bottom round, steaks. Ask the butcher to cut the steaks between ø and ‰ inch thick. You will find that some recipes call for veal, but most suggest round steak.
This is not a complicated recipe; it just takes time to cook the gravy and the meat. As long as you can wrap the meat around the stuffing and secure it with cotton string, you have it made. The Tomato Gravy is cooked slowly for 3 to 4 hours before it is poured over the meat. Then it cooks with the Bracioline for 2 to 2-1/2 more hours. Yes, it takes time, but it’s worth the effort."
By food writer Corinne Cook
Mona’s Braciolini (Stuffed Steaks With Three Meats and Cheese)
From: Mona Drago
Serves 12-14. Recipe can be halved.
3 round steaks sliced thin (get the butcher to cut them less than &permil-inch thick)
1/2 lb. prosciutto (Italian ham), thinly sliced (substitute regular ham if you cannot find the prosciutto)
1/2 lb. salami, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. pepperoni, thinly sliced
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
Italian bread crumbs
5 or 6 hard-cooked eggs
4 strips bacon
Tomato Gravy (recipe follows)
1. Overlap the round steaks a little on each other, then pound the meat well with the flat side of a meat mallet.
2. Layer the ham, then the salami, pepperoni, cheese and bread crumbs.
3. Line the boiled eggs on one end and holding the meat and filling together as you start, roll up jellyroll style.
4. Tie securely with cotton string.
5. Place bacon over the top of the meat. Pour Tomato Gravy over the meat and cook at 350 degrees for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, depending on the size of the steak.
1 large onion
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
3 or 4 ribs celery, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 (12-oz.) can tomato paste
3 tbls. sugar
1 (28-oz.) can tomato purée or 2 (16-oz.) cans whole tomatoes, cut up
Salt, black pepper and red pepper, to taste
Oregano, to taste
Sweet basil, to taste
2 or 3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1. Cook onions, garlic and celery in olive oil until vegetables are tender. Add tomato paste and sugar. Fry this until it begins to hold together and is a nice rich color, about 15-25 minutes.
2. Fill the tomato paste can with water and add 2 cans of water to the tomato mixture. Cook for about 15 minutes then add tomato purée and seasoning. Add 2-30 quarts of water and cook slowly, covered, for at least three hours or until slightly thickened. If mixture gets too thick, thin with a little more water.
3. Pour over prepared meat and bake in 350-degree oven for 2 to 3 hours, depending on size of steaks.
4. To serve, remove string, cut meat into slices and serve over cooked pasta with added gravy over the top.
Another version of Italian Stuffed Steak:
From: Grace Siracusa Guarisco
Note: This is enough steak and filling for 1 bracioline. Double or triple these ingredients if serving more and wrap each separately.
1 to 1-1/4 lbs. thin-cut top or bottom round steak (slightly less than &permil-inch thick)
Salt, black pepper and red pepper
2 to 4 slices thin-sliced ham
4 pieces sliced bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
2 sliced hard-cooked eggs
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs
2 tbls. chopped fresh basil or parsley
Olive oil for browning
Italian Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
1. Season meat, which has been pounded into rectangle about 1/4-inch thick, to taste with salt, black pepper and red pepper. On top of steak, layer ham, then crumbled bacon, sliced hard-cooked eggs. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and seasoned bread crumbs. Those amounts need not be exact. Sprinkle with either chopped fresh parsley or fresh basil.
2. Roll up tightly, jellyroll style, and tie securely with cotton string to secure stuffing. Brown meat, on all sides, in large heavy pot in about 1/3 cup olive oil.
3. Pour cooked Italian Tomato Sauce over stuffed steak and cook for about 2 hours. Do not overcook or steak will fall apart instead of slicing nicely.
Italian Tomato Sauce
This is enough sauce for three (1- to 1-1/4-lb.) braciolini.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (12-oz.) can and 1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
6-3/4 cups water
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. oregano
Pinch of ground cinnamon
2 to 3 tbls. sugar
4 to 5 leaves of fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1-1/2 to 2 lbs. pasta
1. In heavy pot, sauté onion in olive oil until almost tender. Add the garlic after the onions have cooked awhile. Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste.
2. Cook tomato mixture, while stirring constantly, until it’s a deep red, about 15 minutes.
3. Add water, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, dried basil, oregano, cinnamon and sugar. Cook slowly, covered, for 3 to 5 hours.
4. Right before serving add the fresh basil.
5. Pour over prepared Bracioline and cook an additional 2 hours.
6. To serve, remove string, slice and serve over cooked pasta with extra sauce over the top.
22 May 2009
Image by SoxyLady via FlickrFrom Denny: Here's an easy versatile basic version of Baked Ziti that is kid-friendly too! Sometimes, you want to cook easy, fast but tasty and here is one of those comfort food recipes that answers the call! :) With a strong Italian population in Louisiana for centuries now, everyone has learned how to cook a wide variety of those fabulous and easy dishes.
You can do a lot of variations, so add your personal touch. Try changing it up with ground turkey or ground sirloin for less fat. Add your favorite white cheddar cheese or regular yellow Colby cheddar cheese as cheddar is packed with flavor.
Add mushrooms and some more spices like extra garlic, a little curry powder (especially good with beef), basil, and thyme, yes, even on top of the Italian seasoning already in the spaghetti sauce. A little smoked red chili pepper also makes it good for adult palates!
I like to make my own marinara sauce in place of the jarred spaghetti sauce that includes a little dark brown sugar to balance the sourness of the tomatotes. (Some Sicilian friends showed me that yummy little trick though they used white sugar. I prefer the dark brown sugar as it adds to the background depth of the sauce, providing another layer of taste.)
We like Louisiana heat in our spaghetti sauce so we add that too. Really this dish hinges on the quality of your sauce, the meat used (bits of smoked pork chops from your local grocery store would be good too as a way to use up leftovers!) and the flavors of the cheeses.
Make sure you undercook any pasta. Why? Undercooked pasta doesn't make you swell or turn to fat quickly like overcooked soft pasta does. It also tastes fresher! And when you bake a dish it absorbs the flavors more: win-win!
You can always divide this dish into two baking dishes and place one in the freezer for another meal.
Prep time: 30 minutes
1 pound ground beef or ground sirloin or ground turkey
3 cups ziti, or your favorite pasta, cooked and drained (about 6 cups cooked)
1 (26-ounce) jar your favorite spaghetti sauce or your own marinara sauce
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese or cheddar cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large skillet, brown meat and drain. Stir in ziti, spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Spoon into 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Cover and bake 20 minutes.
Per serving: 556 calories (percent of calories from fat, 49), 26 grams protein, 45 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 30 grams fat, 81 milligrams cholesterol, 792 milligrams sodium.