Braciola (brä-che-'o-le)

What it means

In northern Italy, thinly pounded meat spread with bread crumbs, grated cheese and herbs, rolled up and tied with a string is known as involtini. But in Southern Italy - and, by extension, the U.S. - the Sunday favorite is called braciola.

"When I was growing up in our little house in Binghamton, N.Y., braciole (were) a big deal," Linda Calabraisi Hanks reminisced on her Italian cooking blog. "It wasn't part of those random Tuesday night dinners with sauce. It was reserved for special family gatherings. If you're Italian, you know what I mean - the kind that lasted for three hours."

Italian-American cooks typically brown braciola in olive oil and then simmer it in a hearty tomato sauce. The dish, kin to roulade, was designed to make the most of the least meat.

But despite its peasant origins, braciola has caught on with upscale chefs, who appreciate the interplay of ingredients: Fillings may include spinach, sausage, garlic, pine nuts, raisins and hard-boiled eggs. And while beef is the standard meat choice in traditional home kitchens from Philadelphia to Chicago, braciola can feature chicken, veal, eggplant or fish.

Where we saw it

La Fontana (Veal braciola with mushrooms, asparagus and tomatoes, $18.95)

Where else you can try it

At last year's "No Kid Hungry" dinner, Ken Vedrinski prepared a black bass braciola (The dinner benefiting Share Our Strength is coming up again: Visit for tickets.) Vedrinski also has served braciola at his restaurants, Lucca and Coda Del Pesce.

Where to buy it

While it's sometimes possible to find pre-rolled meats in the butcher's case, braciola is synonymous with home cooking. Don't be shy with the meat mallet.