Involtini. Rolls of….beef, veal, pesce spada (swordfish) ….you name it. Italians love Involtini and the Sicilians have their share of versions of these tasty recipes. Having spent a good deal of time in Sicily, I have had this wonderful dish made numerous ways in both winter and summer. This version is one of my favorites for a cold winter evening. They always take me back to my winter trips to Taormina when the nights are frosty. I remember one evening during my very first trip to Sicily when I ducked into a restaurant to escape the bitter cold January winds. (It was so cold that I was wearing two thirds of my suitcase and looked as if I could topple at any moment.) As I peeled off layer upon layer of sweaters, the cameriere hustled by with a steaming plate of Involtini di Manzo …the smell wafting from the plate was pure heaven and it took every ounce of restraint not to follow the little Involtini to the table where they were being served. My Sicilian mother also made a version of these called braciole which were usually part of the Sunday sauce pot and were so tender they fell apart with the lightest touch. I made these with a smile on my face…happy memories from the past.
This version of the involtini is stuffed with a typical Sicilian filling of parsley, cheese, garlic, raisins and pignoli…yummy. I finished one batch off with a simmer in tomato sauce. I also made a batch that I coated in breadcrumbs, pan fried and served with lemon. I am including both below. Enjoy!!
Involtini di Manzo: Sicilian Beef Rolls
For the involtini:
1 cup of breadcrumbs (freshly ground, if possible, made with day old bread with crust removed)
1/3 cup of fresh young Pecorino cheese
1/3 cup of grated Parmigiano reggiano
2 tablespoons pine nuts (pignoli)
2 tablespoons raisins
2 cloves of garlic, diced
3 tablespoons fresh parley, chopped
Freshly ground pepper
About 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 slices of very thin beef (you can usually find meat labeled braciole meat in the market)
4 very thin slices of mortadella or prosciutto (ask for it be sliced extra thin)
Olive oil to fry
Homemade tomato sauce (if finishing in sauce)
2 Eggs, Freshly ground breadcrumbs and lemons (if finishing with lemon)
1. Place the breadcrumbs in a medium sized bowl. Add the Pecorino, parmigiano, pine nuts, raisins, garlic and parsley. Toss together and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
2. Drizzle the mixture while tossing with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and toss. The olive oil will help to hold the filling together but should not leave the filling soaked – use your discretion.
3. Lay out one slice of beef. (If not very thin, pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin until very thin.) Trim one slice of mortadella to fit beef, leaving about 1/2 inch around all sides.
4. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the filling on top of the mortadella. Be careful not to overdo it with the filling….a little goes a long way.
5. Fold in the sides of the beef slice. Tuck in the end nearest you and roll up the slice. Secure with a toothpick.
6. Repeat for remaining slices.
To finish in tomato sauce:
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot but not smoking, brown the rolls on each side – roughly 3-5 minutes per side. Remove from pan once browned.
2. Once all rolls are browned, place back in the skillet.
3. Cover with homemade tomato sauce and simmer for 30-45 minutes until the rolls are cooked.
4. Remove the toothpicks and serve hot – pass the extra parmigiano and enjoy!!
To finish with lemon:
1. Lightly beat 2 eggs in a medium sized bowl.
2. Place 1 cup of breadcrumbs in another bowl.
3. Dip the beef rolls first in the egg, then in the breadcrumb, making sure all surfaces are breaded.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot but not smoking, brown the rolls on each side – roughly 3-5 minutes per side. Remove from pan once browned.
5. Once all rolls are browned, place back in skillet and cook over medium low heat until cooked through – about 20 minutes.
6. Remove toothpicks and serve hot, with fresh lemon wedges. Enjoy!