Italian Stuffed-Beef Rolls in Tomato Sauce (Braciola alla Marinara)

Braciola

This classic Italian-American dish is made from a lean cut of beef pounded thin, spread with a layer of grated cheese, fresh herbs, prosciutto, raisins, and pine nuts, then rolled, tied, seared, and simmered for hours in tomato sauce. See the recipe for Braciola »Todd Coleman

Many of my favorite memories are of the epic Sunday dinners at my grandparents' house in Philadelphia. My grandmother, Nancy DiRenzo, would be up at dawn cooking. By 2:00 p.m., family would start piling in for what would inevitably become a six-hour meal; guests spilled from the dining room to the kitchen to the living room, eating off folding TV trays. The centerpiece was the rich tomato gravy. What gave it its heft were the meats that Grandmom cooked in it: pork sausages, meatballs, and my favorite, braciola. The dish is a lean cut of beef pounded thin, then spread with a layer of grated cheese, fresh herbs, bits of prosciutto, raisins, and pine nuts, then rolled, tied, seared, and simmered for hours in tomato sauce. I've had similar dishes with names like involtini or rollatini; what these recipes share is the art of stretching a little protein to feed as many mouths as possible. These days, I find myself putting up a pot of "red gravy" on Sundays, just like Grandmom's, studded with meatballs, good sausage, and of course, braciola. For some reason, maybe it's just a trick of memory, but hers was better than mine. —Michael Colameco, host of Mike Colameco's Real Food on PBS