Is That a Braciola in Your Pocket . . .

July 29, 2008 at 9:54 pm 1 comment

Recently while reading the Bob Spitz book, the Saucier’s Apprentice (W.W. Norton, 2008), Spitz repeatedly mentioned a dish called Braciola.  But he never went into detail what it was other than a very common dish in Italy.  The problem was I live in a part of the country with very few Italians so my knowledge of Italian food growing up was lasagna and spaghetti.  Ironically, neither are that common in Italy where they tend to eat dishes like Braciola more often.  So I went to wikipedia and looked it up:

Braciola (plural braciole) is the name of an Italian dish. Braciole are simple thin slices of beef pan fried in their juice, or in a light amount of olive oil. It is, probably, one of the simplest dishes in Italian cooking; served with a green salad or boiled potatoes

In Italian American cuisine, braciole (the word is commonly pronounced /bra’zhul/ from the Sicilian pronunciation) is the name given to thin slices of meat (typically pork, chicken, or beef, but even swordfish) that are rolled with cheese and bread crumbs and fried; the bread crumbs are often left off, and the braciole are cooked along with meatballs and Italian sausage in Sunday gravy. They can be served with tomato sauce, or even plain. There exist many variations on the recipe. Changing the type of cheese and adding assorted vegetables (such as eggplant) can drastically change the taste. Braciole are not eaten as a main dish, but as a side dish at dinner, or in a sandwich at lunch.

What are known as braciole in the United States is named involtini in original Italian cuisine. Involtini are thin slices of beef (or pork, or chicken) rolled with a filling of the Parmesan cheese, eggs to give consistency and whatever additional ingredients (other cheeses, ham, bread crumbs, mushroom, onions, sausage, etc.) are available. Involtino (singular) originates from the word “voltare” (to turn), as in the action or rolling the meat around the filling (as in rolling a sheet of paper for storage). One involtino is held together by a wooden toothpick, and the dish is usually served (in various sauces: red, white, etc.) as a second course. When cooked in tomato sauce, the sauce itself is used to toss the pasta for the first course, giving a consistent taste to the whole meal.

The word is also used in Italian-American slang as a reference to the male reproductive organ. An example of this usage is in The Sopranos episode “Second Opinion”.

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1 Comment

  • 1. Joseph Morgia  |  July 2, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Actually, wikipedia has some of their facts incorrect. They said, “What are known as braciole in the United States is named involtini in original Italian cuisine”. Wrong. Braciole is served all through Italy, but it differs depending on where you are. In Northern Italy braciole is more of a bar-b-q veal dish. In Southern Italy it is as you explain it to be. And in Sicily, it is beef skewers. The closest thing to Braciole in the northern part of Italy is Involtini, yet it is still different in many ways. Involtini is served as a seperate dish as you say… while Braciole is sliced and served on top of pasta (usually gnocchi).


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Stuart Reb Donald

Stuart is a celebrity chef and award winning food writer. Donald performs live cooking demonstrations and penned the cookbook Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor."


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