It’s What’s for Lent: Falsomagro

Christians around the world, during Lent, are supposed moderate their diets and have simple meals meant to invoke contemplation and a period of waiting for Easter. Italian tradition has come up a way to cheat a little – a roast that looks on the outside to be a simple, humble meal, but on the inside reveals an over-the-top, opulent meal with symbols of birth and money. Hence the name falsomagro, “falsely lean” (it’s not lean at all) or “falsely Lenten” (it dodges the Lenten practice of restraint). I tend to think this is another example of Italians thumbing their nose at the Church – like strozzapretti, (priest stranglers).

The key to this dish is to find a good butcher that can cut and pound the chuck just right. Here in L.A., my go-to butcher is Huntington Meats. They cut me a piece of chuck perfect for this dish.

Substitutions are the fun part of this dish. Use what you like, as long as the surprise when slicing it is preserved. You can also use veal or pork for the meat. The tomato sauce and hard boiled eggs can be made in advance. The whole roast can also be assembled a day before and refrigerated until ready to brown and braise. Serve with a green vegetable, such as sautéed broccoli or kale, or nice roasted potatoes.

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Falsomagro – Falsely thin

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  • 1/2 lb. Italian sweet sausage (about 2 links)
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 glove garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp. golden raisins
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 6 eggs, divided – 5 to hardboil and 1 for pork mixture
  • 11/2 to 2 lbs. chuck cut thin by your butcher into a 8″x10″ piece (same meat as for braciole)
  • 6 slices Mortadella
  • 6 slices Provolone cheese
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 28-oz can good quality tomato puree


  1. Prepare the ingredients for the stuffing:
    • In a pot with a steamer basket, add 1-inch of water. Bring to boil then add the 5 eggs. Cover and steam for 12 minutes. Be careful not to let the water dry out – add more if needed. Prepare an ice bath in a bowl with ice and cold water. When the 12 minutes are up, remove the eggs with tongs to the ice bath and let cool.
    • In a shallow fry pan over medium-low heat, add the pine nuts to toast. Constantly swirl the pan around to avoid them from burning. After they are toasted, about 5 minutes, remove the pine nuts to a small bowl (if you leave them in the pan, they will burn).
    • In the same fry pan, add 1/4 cup of olive oil and gently heat over medium-low heat. Add the chopped garlic and stir until fragrant but not browned. Add the breadcrumbs and stir into the olive oil. Toast the breadcrumbs, stirring frequently until they are toasted light brown. Remove to a small bowl.
    • Into a medium size mixing bowl, remove the sausages from their casings and crumble. Add the finely chopped parsley, Percorino Romano cheese and prepared breadcrumbs. Add a pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper. Crack the remaining egg into the bowl. Now with a clean hand, combine the ingredients well, but do not over-mix.
  2. Assemble the roll:
    • Lay the flattened beef out on a large wood board and generously season with salt and pepper.
    • Cover the entire piece with overlapping slices of the Mortadella.
    • Cover evenly with the sausage mixture pressing down to flatten it uniformly. Leave about a 1-inch gap at the seam end of the meat.
    • Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts and raisins on the sausage mixture and press them firmly into the mixture.
    • Lay out the slices of provolone cheese on the sausage mixture to cover.
    • Finally, cut the ends off the hard boiled eggs and place them down the center of the beef roll end-to-end.
  3. Roll up the roll:
    • Preheat the oven to 350F-degrees.
    • OK, this is where 2 people need to work together. One person should neatly roll up the roast so that the seem edges overlap.
    • The other person should use butcher’s twine to tie the roast as shown (if you can’t master this method, just use shorter pieces and tie at regular intervals).
  5. Brown and braise the roast:
    • In a heavy-bottom pot  (oblong-shaped is the best) big enough to hold the roast, add enough olive oil to coat the entire base of the pan. Heat over medium-high heat.
    • Generously season the roast with salt and pepper all over and gently lower into the pan. 
    • Rotating the roast with a pair of tongs, deeply brown all sides of the roast. Remove to a cutting board or plate.
    • Add more olive oil if needed and add the onions and a good pinch of salt. Sauté the onions until they are soft but not brown.
    • Add the tomato puree to the onions, stir and bring to a gentle bowl. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. This is the last opportunity to season the sauce.
    • Lower the tied roast into the pot. Cover with the lid and put into the heated oven for 1 hour. At around the mid-point, rotate the roast in the pot and return to the oven.
    • Remove pot from the oven and let set for 10 minutes or so.
  6. To serve:
    • Uncover the pot and using a pair of scissors, snip off the kitchen twine. Remove the twine from the roast with a pair of tongs and discard.
    • Remove the roast to a serving plate and cover with some of the sauce. Present to your guests so they get the idea of the simple outside and complex inside.
    • Return the kitchen, remove the roast to a cutting board and slice several pieces as shown in the photo. Return to the serving plate and serve at the table.


Special equipment:

  • Pot with a steamer basket
  • Kitchen twine and a friend to help tie the roast
  • Large heavy-bottom pot, oblong if possible, with a lid

Join the Conversation

  1. Thumbing their nose at the Church, and finding a way around the rules. Very Italian indeed… ! So is the delicious taste, I’m sure. I’ve been meaning to blog on this one for a while now myself, it’s a true capolavoro of the Sicilian kitchen.

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