Chef Andrew Carmellini confesses that, even after he became a professional chef, he never knew what braciole referred to. Then one day, while he was working at New York’s Café Boulud, a cook made it for a “family” meal, using his grandmother’s recipe—rolled-up flank steak with provolone cheese, prosciutto, and hard-boiled eggs, braised in tomato sauce.
Later, while traveling in Italy, Carmellini searched for braciole dishes and found only one—a version made with horse meat that was displayed in a butcher’s window in Puglia. In his new cookbook, Urban Italian (Bloomsbury), the chef-proprietor of New York’s A Voce admits that his version may be less than authentic. “But this dish is great in the depths of winter: real stick-to-your-ribs stuff, if you’ll excuse the pun.”
Recipe of the week
Short Ribs Braciole
For short ribs:
½ cup roughly diced pancetta (about ¼ pound)
4 boneless short ribs (about 2 lbs), cut into thirds
1 heaping tbsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, sliced “Goodfellas thin”
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
20 canned whole tomatoes (two 28-oz cans, about 4 cups)
¼ cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup panko bread crumbs
2 tsp dried oregano, preferably on the branch
2 tbsp chopped parsley
A pinch each of salt and coarse-ground black pepper
2 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
For short ribs: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Over medium-high heat, cook pancetta in large, dry, ovenproof sauce pot over medium-high heat until fat renders, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Season short ribs on both sides with salt and pepper, add to pan; brown meat, about 5 minutes. Add onion; cook until it softens, about 1 minute. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, mix well, continue cooking. Crush tomatoes over bowl with hands; add to pot along with their juice. Bring mixture to low boil. Remove pot from stove; place in oven. Check ribs every 15 minutes to make sure they’re not boiling too hard. Cook until meat is super-tender and a fork can pass through it without sticking, about 2½ hours.
For topping: Toast pine nuts in dry sauté pan over low heat, shaking pan occasionally to avoid burning or sticking, about 8 minutes. Add olive oil and mix well. Add panko bread crumbs; continue cooking over low heat, mixing occasionally, until everything is toasty brown, about 2 minutes. Add oregano and parsley. Season with salt and pepper; cook together for a few seconds, so everything is warmed but parsley does not wilt. Remove from heat; add Parmigiano-Reggiano (not before—otherwise, you’ll have a melted-cheese mess).
To finish dish: Remove pot from oven; immediately remove ribs to plate, using pair of tongs. Use ladle to remove some of fat from sauce by pressing chunky sauce away as you tip pot so ladle fills only with clear fat. Add ½ cup of water to sauce; stir to bring it together. Place 4 to 5 pieces of meat on each plate. Pour sauce from pot directly over short ribs; sprinkle topping generously over each dish. Serve immediately. Serves 4.