Sunday, April 15, 2012

In the ring with Marie Barone

How many of you remember the tv comedy Everybody Loves Raymond? If you do, you'll also remember that Ray's wife, Debra was an awful cook and many jokes were made about how bad her food was. It was so bad, it took an entire episode when she finally made something good, much to her overbearing mother-in-law's dismay. Preparing good food was Marie's domain and she never let Debra forget it.

Thanks to YouTube, I found the clip of Marie being confronted with Debra's successful dish:

The dish that unnerved Marie was braciole. That particular episode - aside from being hilarious - made me curious. Just what is braciole? And could I make it to Marie's standard? Probably not, but I had to give it a try, so I did a little research and climbed into the ring with Marie Barone.

Ding, ding! In this corner, weighing in with a mere 30-some years of cooking (none of it Italian - spaghetti and lasagna don't count), the challenger:  Stephanie. And in this corner, the greatest living (if only in her mind) Italian cook of all time, the mamma with the most, the champ: Marie!

And with that, the shadow-boxing match with Marie Barone began.


Before we get to the recipe, I should really answer my question:  what is braciole? It is an Italian-American dish (main or side) that consists of thinly sliced meat rolled as a roulade with cheese and bread crumbs and fried. When it is cooked in a tomato sauce, it is not uncommon for pasta to be tossed in it. 

This is my first time making braciole and I didn't have a trusted recipe or even a trusted recipe book to go to. So, I did what everyone else does in these situations - I googled it. After reading through many (many, many) recipes and conversation boards about braciole, I came away knowing two things, for sure:  there are a lot of recipes for braciole on the internet and I needed to find a recipe from a trusted source (usually one of my favorite chefs). I turned to Chef Anne Burrell - another Food Network favorite. Her recipe, at first glance, looks a little intimidating, but (as with most of her recipes) mise en place (have all the ingredients ready) is the key! Chef Anne's recipe can be found at:  Braciole Recipe.

2 lbs. top round, cut into 1/2" slices (about 12 slices)

Place the slices of top round between two pieces of plastic wrap and gently pound with a meat mallet to flatten and even out the slices. Set aside.


olive oil

1/2 cup finely diced pancetta (use bacon, if you don't have pancetta)

1 lg. onion, finely diced


1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 cups day old bread, crusts removed, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 cup milk

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced

1/2 lb. fresh spinach, stems removed, cut into chiffonade (you can also tear it into small pieces, if you don't want to chiffonade the spinach)

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

1/2 cup grated provolone

1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat with olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook until it gets brown and crispy, about 5-7 minutes. Add the onion and pepper flakes; toss to incorporate with the pancetta. Season with salt, to taste. Cook on medium-low until the onions become soft and very aromatic, about 7-8 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, combine the bread cubes and milk in a large bowl. Toss to combine and let this sit until the bread has absorbed all the milk and is very soft. Set aside.

Add garlic to pancetta and onions. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms; season with salt (to taste) and cook until the mushrooms become soft and have release their moisture, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the spinach.

Combine the onion/mushroom mixture with the bread/milk. Add the pine nuts and cheeses; stir well to combine. Taste and season with salt, if necessary. Set aside.


olive oil

1 lg. onion, finely diced

1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes


2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 tbsp. tomato paste

1 cup red wine (may substitute beef stock, if you like)

1 - 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

2 cups water

Lightly coat a large pot with olive oil and heat over medium temperature. Add the onion and pepper flakes, season with salt and cook until the onions are translucent and very aromatic, about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and wine; cook for 6-8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and water; taste and season with salt (to your taste). Cover and simmer until needed.

While the sauce is simmering, lay out the flattened beef slices and spread about 1/4 cup of filling on each slice. Roll up the beef slice and secure with a toothpick. Repeat with the remaining slices. Using the skillet the filling was made in, coat the pan with 2-3 turns of olive oil and place over medium-high heat. Brown the beef rolls on all sides. You may have to work in batches so you don't crowd the pan.

Place the browned beef rolls in the sauce and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the beef is very tender, about 2 - 2 1/2 hours.

To serve, place a little sauce on a platter and arrange the braciole on top of the sauce. Be sure to remove the toothpicks before placing them on the platter! Spoon sauce over the top and garnish with grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and chopped parsley.

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For my first time preparing braciole, I think I did fairly well. There are things I will definitely do differently, the next time. There's no question, Marie won this round - by decision, not a knock-out.

I did learn one important thing while making braciole: my kitchen was missing an essential tool. A meat mallet. I flattened the meat with a rolling pin and, while that does work, a meat mallet is much more effective at getting the job done. My advice? Do what I did. Add a meat mallet to your kichen tool collection, if you don't already have one.

The braciole was served as a main dish and I prepared the pasta shown below as a side. The two paired beautifully.

Angel Hair Pasta with Fried Red Chili Flakes & Lemon

This recipe comes from another one of my favorite chefs, Tyler Florence. I used to watch him all the time on Food Network and I don't think he ever prepared a dish I didn't think I'd like. I've tried many of his recipes and they always turn out great! This pasta dish is super simple and makes a great side dish to the braciole. I especially love the little bit of heat the fried chili flakes add to the subtlety of the lemon.

If you'd like to see the original recipe, please follow this link:  Tyler Florence's Angel Hair Pasta.

1/2 cup olive oil plus 2 tbsp.

2 cups panko bread crumbs (you can use plain breadcrumbs, but panko gives the best results)

salt & pepper

3 cloves garlic, slivered

1 tsp. dried red pepper chili flakes

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 lb. angel hair pasta

1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano

6 cups lightly packed arugula (I don't care for arugula, so I omitted this)

Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet over low heat; add the panko bread crumbs. Toast until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a bowl and set aside.

Using the same skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat; add the garlic and chili flakes. Saute for 2-3 minuts to infuse the oil and cook the garlic. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the lemon zest and remove from heat.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, add the angel hair pasta and cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl. While still warm, toss in the arugula, infused olive oil, bread crumbs, lemon juice, and the cheese. Transfer to a large serving platter, if you like.


This post is linked to the following:



  1. Ha I do remember that episode! I have made this dish once and to this day I think I did something wrong. The meat, even though it had a sauce, was very tough. Since then I have never attempted it again. Perhaps I was missing the instructions you have here in the 3rd paragraph.
    Anyhow your dish does look like something I think Marie would enjoy (even though she would not admit to it)! So if Marie would approve it no doubt it would be a hit at our house. Great post!

    1. Hi Tina! Thank you so much for stopping by. Wasn't this a great episode? There were so many great clips to choose from! I definitely feel a rematch coming - especially now that I possess a meat mallet! I need it to be "Marie throws down the fork and walks out" - good!

  2. Wow! I haven't heard about this dish, but it looks A-mazing! (I'm a fan of anything that uses red wine with cooking ;) The angel hair would go so nicely with it. I'm drooling and I just ate.

    1. Thank you so much for your very kind comments! I didn't know what braciole was either until I googled it. It takes just a little bit of time to make, but it's worth it. I'd love to know what you think of it, if you give it a try!

  3. I love that episode. I will never forget it and once bought pork bricole in the store and tried to make it but thought it was just ok. I will have to try yours.

    1. Thanks so much Andrea! This was one of my favorite "Ray" episodes! We really like the braciole (it was our first time trying it), so I'll be going in for a re-match. I'd love to know what you think of it, if you give it a try.

  4. The pasta looks delicious, I do love my carbs :)

    1. Hi Neshanne! I don't think I'd make it if I had to completely give up carbs! The pasta is really good and super, super easy (my favorite kind). Your smoothie recipe looks amazing - I bought kale for the very first time in my life, so I could give it a try!

  5. That was hilarious. I missed that episode, but I loved the post. It looks delicious!!! Thanks you so much for linking it up Stephanie :)

    1. Hi Minnie! I've watched that clip hundreds of times and I laugh out loud every time I watch it. Thanks for hosting your Gala Extravaganza Dinner Party! I look forward to it each week.


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