Dec 29

IMG_2712stockingsMaybe because my family is Italian, everyone feels strongly about food. This can make planning a holiday meal especially difficult, and since my Mother and I are always the two designated Chefs, we begin brainstorming ideas months in advance. Christmas dinner is no doubt the culminating feast of the entire year, and since we rarely repeat the traditional turkey line up from Thanksgiving, it requires a certain creativity on our part to match the expectations imposed by the rest of the family.

It began this year with my Mother’s idea to make homemade mushroom ravioli. Perfect, I thought. Not only did this sound delicious, but it also meant that I could probably get away with making a simple salad and dessert to go along side. Christmas and Thanksgiving are what the British call a “busman’s holiday” for chefs. Intsead of being a break from the normal workday of cooking, they inevitably keep us busier than ever in our usual job.

Having my Mom prepare the entrée would allow me to take on a lighter load than usual. Feeling content at the prospect, I began to relax into the holiday season.

No sooner did I breathe a sigh of relief when over a casual conversation with my brother I was informed that ravioli was not what he had in mind for Christmas dinner. What pray tell was he hoping for? Beef bourguignon was his reply, along with a traditional Italian vegetable stew called “stufato”. Kicking myself for even asking his preference, I clicked my phone shut and did my best to stay in the holiday spirit.

Beef bourguignon, while a family favorite, has long since been played out on our holiday meal repertoire. Stufato, on the other hand, was something I had never made so my interest was slightly piqued to try it. I mulled over the possibilities of something that would pair alongside the ravioli and vegetable stew, and be in the same vein as the beef bourguignon. Immediately I thought of beef braciole, an Italian braised beef dish that my Father grew to love as a child. It would provide the heartiness my brother was looking for, but also perfectly round out the Italian themed Christmas dinner.

IMG_2659beef340I revised the traditional recipe for braciole, which calls for a layer of cheese, prosciutto and bread crumbs to be rolled into thinly pounded layers of beef tenderloin before searing and braising in tomato sauce. My version substitutes a mushroom and parsley duxelle along with roasted red peppers for the filling, and then adds a generous dose of red wine and some beef stock to the crushed tomatoes before braising. The result is a meltingly tender piece of meat layered with flavor and enrobed in a robust tomato sauce. I garnish each roll of beef with a baby arugula salad, tossed with shavings of parmigiana reggiano and a light balsamic vinaigrette. The bitterness of the greens helps balance the richness of the braciole and adds a mouthwatering contrast to each bite.

Despite my initial reluctance of biting off more than I could chew for Christmas dinner, I eagerly relished every bite of this creation. I am, afterall, known to be just as particular about food as my Italian relatives. And where Chrsitmas dinner is concerned, there better be something comforting, but unique, and unequivocally tasty on the plate in front of me if I am to enjoy the holiday festivities.


Serves 6-8

IMG_2660beef340Special Equipment Needed:

Butcher’s Twine

Meat Mallet or Hammer

Dutch oven or large braising pot

Food processor


2 lb beef tenderloin, preferably naturally raised or organic

2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded then sliced into small strips

1, 16 oz can crushed tomatoes

2 C beef stock

½ bottle of red wine (ideally Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel or Shiraz)

1 large carrot, peeled and root end removed

1 large onion, peeled and root ends removed

1 large celery stalk

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 sprigs rosemary

olive oil

salt and pepper

*alternatively you can use jarred roasted red peppers

For mushroom duxelle:

3 pints of cremini mushrooms, stalks removed and caps halved

1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped

3 Tbsp fresh parsley sprigs, coarsely chopped

2 Tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

zest of half a lemon

olive oil

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

For arugula salad:

2 C baby arugula

3 oz wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano, sliced into shavings with a vegetable peeler

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp extra virgin oluve oil

fleur de sel

black pepper


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

For the duxelle:

Toss the mushrooms in olive oil just to coat then roast on the sheet pan for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Add shallots, balsamic vinegar and garlic to the pan and return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove and season with salt and pepper. Add mushroom mixture along with parsley, cheese, and lemon zest to a food processor and pulse until you have a rough paste. Season if necessary.

For the beef:

Portion the tenderloin into 4 pieces and then slice each filet in half. Working one piece at a time, place the beef either between two large pieces of plastic wrap or in a large gallon size zip lock bag.Pound the beef evenly on all sides, using a meat mallet or hammer, until you have a piece about twice as large as what you started out with. Repeat with remaining slices.

To assemble the rolls, lay one piece of pounded meat flat on your work surface. Season the top with salt and pepper then spoon a thin layer of the mushroom paste to cover surface facing you. Line a few strips of bell pepper down the middle, and then roll the beef into a spiral. Use one piece of twine around the middle to securely tie the roll closed.

When you have finished filling and rolling the beef, heat a large skillet over medium high heat for about 3 minutes. Add olive oil just to coat the bottom of the pan, then brown the beef in batches so that all sides are evenly caramelized.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

IMG_2668beef340Next, heat a separate large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. While the pot is heating, combine the celery, carrot and onion in a food processor and pulse to chop until fine, but still coarse and not pureed completely. Add olive oil just to coat the bottom of the pot, then add the carrot, onion, celery mix and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add chopped garlic and cook for another minute before adding the wine. Allow the wine to simmer for another 5 minutes, then add the beef stock, crushed tomatoes and rosemary. Bring the pot to a low simmer, then place in the rolls of beef. Cover the pot and place in the preheated oven for about 1.5 hours or until the beef is tender. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

To finish the dish, toss the ingredients for the salad together. Remove the twine from the rolls of beef, then place one piece of beef on a plate and spoon some of the sauce over and around the braciole. Pile a small bundle of the arugula salad on top and serve immediately.IMG_2697bef560

3 Responses to “Beef Braciole”

  1. Logan says:

    im gonna have my mom make this for me

  2. jerry says:

    The filling was bland the first time I made this. I upped the amount of Parmesan to 3/4cup,added more salt and pepper,a sauteed a middle sized onion and a beaten egg. Made the filling more flavorful,and it was better received by my family(critics all).

  3. Susan Baker says:

    OMG! This sounds delicious… I can’t wait to try it!

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