If the name of this dish doesn’t ring any bells for you, you’re not alone. To be honest, I never knew what braciole meant until one of my cooks made it for a staff family meal when I was at Café Boulud in New York City. He used his grandmother’s recipe: rolled-up flank steak with provolone cheese, prosciutto and hard-boiled eggs, braised in tomato sauce. I looked for braciole when I traveled through Italy, but it was nowhere—until one day I spotted it in a butcher’s window in Puglia, made out of horse. Maybe mine is a little less authentic, but instead of having to compete with the dog-food guys at the racetrack, I’ve done it with short ribs—and EVERYONE loves short ribs. This dish is great in the depths of winter: real stick-to-your-ribs stuff, if you’ll excuse the pun, with deep flavors balanced by the freshness of the topping.
- 1/2 cup roughly diced pancetta (about 1/4 pound)
- 4 boneless short ribs (about 2 pounds), cut into thirds
- 1 heaping tablespoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 clove garlic, sliced Goodfellas thin
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 20 canned whole tomatoes (Two 28-ounce cans, about 4 cups), preferably San Marzano, plus their juice; or 4 cups crushed tomatoes, plus their juice
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, chopped roughly
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably on the branch
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- A pinch of salt
- A pinch of coarse-ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Make the Short Ribs:
1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
2. Cook the pancetta in a large, dry, ovenproof saucepot over medium-high heat until the fat renders, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking.
3. Season the short ribs on both sides with salt and pepper, add them to the pan, and brown the meat, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the onion and cook until it softens, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes, mix well, and continue cooking.
5. Crush the tomatoes over a bowl with your hands, then add them to the pot along with their juice. Bring the mixture up to a low boil.
6. Remove the pot from the stove and place it in the oven. Check the ribs about every 15 minutes or so to make sure they're not boiling too hard. Cook until the meat is supertender and a fork can pass through it without sticking, about 2½ hours.
Make the Topping:
1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry sauté pan over low heat, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid burning or sticking, about 8 minutes.
2. Add the olive oil and mix well. Add the panko breadcrumbs and continue cooking over low heat, mixing occasionally, until everything is toasty brown, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the oregano and parsley. Season with the salt and pepper and cook together for a few seconds, so everything is warmed but the parsley does not wilt.
4. Remove from the heat and then add the Parmigiano-Reggiano (not before—otherwise, you'll have a melted cheese mess).
To Finish the Dish:
1. Remove the pot from the oven and immediately remove the ribs to a plate, using a pair of tongs.
2. Use a ladle to remove some of the fat from the sauce, by pressing the chunky sauce away as you tip the pot so that the ladle fills only with the clear fat. (This is optional, but it definitely makes the sauce prettier—there's about 2 tablespoons' worth of fat there.)
3. Add ½ cup of water to the sauce and stir to bring it together.
4. Place 4 to 5 pieces of meat on each plate. Pour the sauce from the pot directly over the short ribs and sprinkle the topping generously over each dish. Serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food by Andrew Carmellini, Bloomsbury USA