Braciole de Manzo (Braised Beef Rolls)


Makes 6 servings
FOR THE ROLLS:
1-1/2 cups milk
2 cups cubed day-old Italian or French bread, crust removed
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 garlic clove, finely chopped

MEAT:
2 pounds beef bottom round, cut into 12 slices, each about 1/2-inch thick, 4 to 5 inches square*
12 slices imported Italian prosciutto
1/4 pound imported provolone cheese, cut into 1/4-by-1/4-by-2-inch sticks.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE SAUCE:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions (about 8 ounces), chopped
1 large (35-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves
Water
Salt
Crushed red pepper flakes


To make the stuffing: Pour the milk into a medium bowl, add the bread cubes, and soak until the bread is very soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain the bread, squeeze out the excess milk from the cubes with your hands, and return bread to the bowl. Stir in the chopped eggs, parsley, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, raisins, pine nuts and garlic. Mix well and set aside.
With the toothed side of a meat mallet, pound each slice of beef round to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Arrange one of the pounded meat slices in front of you with one of the short sides nearest you. Top each with a slice of prosciutto. Tap the prosciutto with the back side of a knife so it adheres to the beef.
Spread 2 tablespoons of the stuffing along the edge of the meat closest to you, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Place a stick of the provolone over the stuffing. Fold the border of the provolone,
then fold the side borders in to overlap the edges of the stuffing. Roll into a compact roll about 4 inches long. Secure the end flap with a toothpick. Repeat with the remaining beef and stuffing, then season the rolls with salt and pepper.
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy casserole (or Dutch oven) over medium heat. Stir in the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are wilted, about 5 minutes. Add as many of the beef rolls as well fit in a single layer and cook, turning the beef rolls as necessary, until golden brown on all sides, about 7 minutes. If necessary, repeat with the remaining beef rolls.
Adjust the heat under the pan as necessary to prevent the beef from scorching.
Meanwhile, put the tomatoes into a bowl and squeeze them with your hands until coarsely crushed, removing the cores as you do.
If necessary, return all the beef rolls to the pot. Pour in the wine, bring to a boil, and cook until most of the wine has evaporated. Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the tomato paste and bay leaves and stir until the paste is dissolved. Season with salt and crushed red pepper. Adjust the heat to simmering, adding water as necessary to keep the beef rolls completely submerged, until the beef is tender, about 3 hours.
Remove the toothpicks before serving.  Pasta can be served with the beef rolls and the sauce.
*The slices of beef should measure 4 to 5 inches on each side before pounding.  To obtain pieces of the right size, you want to cut (or have your butcher do it for you) six 1/2 inch-thick slices from the widest part of the bottom round, then cut those slices crosswise into two pieces.