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Everyday Italian: Braciola and Torta di Pasta

So recently I've been trying to enjoy my cookbook collection more -- while I laud myself a decent cook, these folks are much better chefs than I, so why not heed their words and experiences?

First up, Giada De Laurentis' Everyday Italian cookbook, bosting 125 "simple and delicious recipes". For Sunday dinner, I decided on a homemade Braciola and an easy Torta di Pasta. Here we go!


What is a braciola, you ask? No it's not fancy broccoli (that's broccolini, for those keeping score at home). It's when a large, flat piece of meat is rolled and baked. The process makes this very rich, flavorful, and tasty! This is not a quick, weeknight dinner -- with prep time and braise time, you need at least 3 hours to prepare. Here is Giada's recipe. Afer the recipe, see my notes for variations if you need to substitute any ingredients.

2/3 c grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/3 c grated Provolone cheese
1/2 c dried Italian-style bread crumbs
2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
4 T olive oil
1 flank steak (1 1/2 lbs.)
1 t sea salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1 c dry white wine
3 1/4 c Marinara Sauce

In a medium bowl, stir the cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, and garlic to blend. Stir in 2 T of the olive oil and set aside. Lay the flank steak flat on a work surface and sprinkle with 1/2 t of each salt and pepper. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the steak to cover the top evenly. Starting at one end, roll up the steak as for a jelly roll and enclose the filling completely. Using kitchen twine, tie the steak roll and secure. Sprinkle the braciola with the remaining salt and pepper.

(If making ahead, you can stop here, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you are ready to start the braising portion of this recipe)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large, heavy, ovenproof (at least 4" deep on the sides), heat the remaining 2T of olive oil over medium heat. Add the braciola and cook until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the Marinara Sauce. Cover partially with foil and bake, turning the braciola and basting with the sauce every 30 minutes, until the meat is almost tender (about 1 1/2 hours). Uncover and continue baking until the meat is tender, about 30 minutes longer. You can make the recipe to this point, cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, until braciola is heated through).

Remove the braciola from the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, deglaze the pan with a 1/2 cup of beef broth and stir well to mix with the tomato sauce. Using a large, sharp knife, remove the kitchen twine and cut the braciola crosswise and diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices. Transfer the slices to plates. Spoon the sauce over and serve.

serves 6 entree-size portions

Substitutions: Freel free to add or substitute mozzarella, fontina, Gorgonzola, or other cheese and herbs. Don't be afraid to experiement! I didn't have Provolne cheese, so I used Parmesan this time.

Torta di Pasta

Finally, a great use for leftover spaghetti. Torta di Pasta literally means "cake of pasta". This recipe is so easy and you can serve it as a pasta course, side dish, or even cut up into appetizer sizes.

8 ounces cooked pasta
1/2 c drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
4 large eggs
3/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 c freshly grated fontina cheese
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1 t unsalted butter
1 t olive oil

In a large bowl, toss together the pasta and sun dried tomatoes. If you just made the pasta fresh for this recipe, allow the mixture of the pasta and tomatoes to cool.

In a medium bown, whisk the eggs, Parmesan cheese, fontina cheese, 1 1/2 t of salt and 1/2 t of black pepper to blend. Add the egg mixture to the cooled spaghetti mixture and toss to coat.

Preheat the broiler. In a 9 1/2 inch (diameter) ovenproof non-stick skillet, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Transfer the spaghetti mixture to the skillet, pressing to form an even layer. Cooke until the bottom is golden brown (don't stir), about 3 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil until the top is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let the torta cool in the skillet to room tempurature, then invert onto a platter. Cut the torta into wedges and serve at room tempurature.

makes 6 appetizer servings or 4 side dish servings

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