January 8, 2009

Sicilian Involtini

Here is what I had for dinner last night.
I often think that Italian cooking has a bad rap, for taking a long time to make.
Actually, short prep and long cooking are great!
These beef rolls, which I learned in Castelvetrano at the cooking class we went to at the Becchina Estate, take little prep and I watched a couple of TV shows and dinner was ready!

I only got up once to check the involtini, turning them and adding a little water.

Lucy did a great foto reportage of the day cooking , stop by to see a great step-by-step album.


The little white spots are chopped hard-boiled eggs, which are their special touch which I hadn't had in other versions. As usual, each cook has their own secrets.
Here in Western Sicily, near Palermo, the trinity for fillings is fresh breadcrumbs, tiny currants and pinenuts. The currants ( tiny black raisins) give a really special flavor to the dish.

8 extra thin slices of young lean beef : rump steak, boneless and flattened if necessary (ask your butcher to slice it as thin as possible)
4 extra thin slices of mortadella or ham
1 hard boiled egg
1 heaping cup of loosely packed fresh ground breadcrumbs, made from day old (good) bread with the crust removed
1/4 cup chopped Pecorino primo sale (fresh young pecorino)
1/3 cup Parmigiano reggiano or Grana padano cheese
2 Tablespoons pine nuts
2 Tablespoons raisins
1 peeled garlic clove in winter, 2 if fresh with it's green stalk
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat leafed parsley (don't skip the parsley!)
finely ground Trapani or Mozia sea salt to season
2 Tablespoons Olio Verde extra virgin olive oil
Oil for browning
One large jar of your favorite tomato sauce or simply minced whole canned tomatoes
toothpicks (for closing the rolls)

Put the breadcrumbs in a bowl. Mince everything: the eggs, the parsley, the raisins, pine nuts and garlic, cheeses, and add them to the bowl. Toss, season with salt, then add the olive oil in a stream, tossing the mix to keep it light and fluffy. The stuffing should still be light and not drenched with oil, use your discretion with the oil.

Lay out the beef slices on a board, and note the direction of the grain of the meat. This will have an effect on your finished product. The meat contracts in the process of cooking, and your fresh bread crumbs will expand in the process of simmering, laying the meat this way and rolling it as shown will ensure a compact and durable roll, which does not pull apart and spill the contents during cooking.

Cut your mortadella into pieces that fit within the size of the beef slices and lay a slice on top of the beef.

Spoon 2-3 Tablespoons of the breadcrumb/egg stuffing onto the roll, ensuring that you stay within the edges. You don't need to force these completely full of stuffing. The goal is to get a nice roll that won't fall apart so don't go overboard on the stuffing. A little goes a long way.

Fold in the edges on either side as shown, and roll them up, finishing with a toothpick to hold them together. (repeat for all of the beef rolls.)

In a flat skillet, heat the cooking oil and quickly brown the beef rolls on each side, turning them every 3 minutes or so.

When they are browned, transfer them to a plate and drain off the cooking oil the best you can. In a medium sized pot or deep skillet, heat the tomato sauce and bring it to a simmer.

Transfer the beef rolls into the tomato sauce, and simmer them covered for 45 minutes to an hour. Serve hot!


  1. I can just imagine that these would just melt in your mouth after a long braising. Very well done.

  2. Ciao Diva!
    Very good! We really like your involtini siciliani!

    Evelin e Massimo

  3. This looks wonderful. I wonder if I could use flank steak (maybe if I braised it long enough) which I planned on grilling tonight, but I'd rather have inovoltini!

  4. This looks wonderful. I wonder if I could use flank steak (maybe if I braised it long enough) which I planned on grilling tonight, but I'd rather have inovoltini!

  5. the flank steak version is called braciole and takes much longer to cook!

  6. Mmm, looks fantastic!

  7. These look delicious! My mother, whose roots are Napolitan, used to put hard-boiled eggs in her meatloaf to make it "pretty." In fact, she used to make a few dishes that had Sicilian roots. Wonder where that came from?

  8. Arlene, Originally Naples was part of the Kingdom of the two Sicilies... before Italy was united in the 1800's!

    so there are many things in common.

    hard boiled eggs are also in the galantines, and my friend from Avellino puts eggs in her lasagna cooked.. and then beaten eggs on top of the lasagna before baking! too rich for me!

  9. This reminds me a lot of the braciole my mother-in-law used to make, which I haven't made for years. Thanks for reminding me how good these are.

  10. Wow!! This is an interesting recipe. At last I have found something interesting and unique to serve to my guests during the holidays. I am sure that they'll love this sicilian involtini. Thanks a lot for shearing your post.

  11. This version sounds wonderful, since I'm back to making my own Italian food. I love involtini. I can get the perfect meat for these at a Hispanic meat market here in Memphis. They call it "Thin Cut Milanesa."

  12. Oh mamma, I want one now!! With mash potatoes!