Pass the Proscuitto: Braciole di Manza (Italian Beef Rolls in Tomato Sauce)

Braciole Involtini di Manza Italian Beef Rolls in Tomato Sauce Many thanks to Honest Cooking and Parma Ham for sponsoring this post!

I’ve brought you something extra special today!  A delicious, traditional dish from Italy with a combination of flavors that will make your taste buds sing!

Proscuitto is wonderfully versatile in entrees, appetizers and hors d’oeuvres.  It’s featured in today’s dish, Braciole di Manza, as a central part of the filling.  It adds a flavor dimension to this traditional Italian dish that is out of this world delicious.  The flavor of the prosciuotto is not only infused into the slow-simmered beef, its flavor is melded into the tomato sauce which forms the base for the accompanying pasta dish.  Though this dish is enjoyed throughout the year, it is especially befitting the holiday season.

First, what is Parma ham?  Is it different than prosciutto?  The art of curing ham dates as far back as 100 BC near the town of Parma, Italy and there are many brands of prosciutto available on the market today, with varying degrees of quality.  But only one kind can legally be called “Parma ham.”  By law Prosciutto di Parma can only be made in region of Parma, Italy.  This region has unique conditions that enable the meat to dry in such a way that it produces the highest quality hams.  In order for it to be called Parma ham, it must conform to a very strict set of standards and specifications.  Among other factors, Parma ham must be cured for at least 12 months, usually for closer to 2 years.  This year Parma ham is celebrating its 50th anniversary since the Parma Ham Consortium came together in 1963 to establish these standards for their proscuitto.

My first encounter with Parma ham was in England when I was 18 years old.  While going to college, I worked as the manager of a delicatessen.   I was always excited to order and try new products. One such product:  Parma ham.   I had never heard of it up until that point.  It was the most expensive item on the list by far and I was curious.  So I ordered one and when it arrived I opened the box, anxious to see what it was.  I raised an eyebrow as I pulled out a huge, heavy pig’s leg, skin intact with a few stray coarse hairs still in place.  I put it out for display in the deli case and soon had customers asking for it, sliced extra thin.  I got quite the workout hoisting that thing on the meat slicer and lugging it in and out of the deli case.  It took a few days before I finally shaved off an extra slice to try.  And when I did I realized it was something special.  I often put out samples of it, wrapped around fresh melon, and they never lasted long.  I wish now I had sampled more freebie slices while I had the chance!

On to the Braciole di Manza!

BBraciole Involtini di Manza Italian Beef Rolls

“Braciole” is the term used here among American Italians.  This same dish in Italy is known as Involtini di Manza, involtini meaning “little bundles,” the more accurate name for it.  But we’ll refer to this dish by the name it’s more commonly known as over here in the U.S..  While at first appearance this dish may look a little time-consuming, it really isn’t.  The rolls can be made a day ahead and then simply browned and added to the sauce to simmer.  And as for the 3 hours of slow simmering – it doesn’t need to be stirred, so you can let it do its thing undisturbed while you do yours.

Bracioles, usually beef (but can also be pork or chicken) can consist of a variety of fillings, most commonly some kind of combination of bread crumbs, herbs, garlic, and sometimes cheese or pancetta.  This version also includes pine nuts and raisins, two kinds of cheese, and instead of pancetta uses this delicious prosciutto.  These flavor combinations meld together beautifully.  The tender, juicy stuffed beef rolls are exquisite and the slow-simmered tomato sauce is worthy of taking center stage in its own right.

Note:  The long simmering process isn’t an absolute requirement, but the old-fashioned way is to slow simmer it like in making a ragù.  This yields the most flavor, allowing the juices from the meat and the filling to mingle with the tomato sauce, making a wonderful sauce for the pasta.

I had a lot of fun making these bracioles.  I hadn’t listened to Eros Ramazzotti in quite a while so I cranked up my Italian music for added inspiration while preparing this dish.  (If you’re not familiar with Ramazzotti, my two favorite songs of his are Fuoco Nel Fuoco and Emiozione Per Sempre.  The latter song comes from the last album I purchased in Europe before moving to the U.S..  In fact, there I was in the kitchen getting misty-eyed to song that’s not remotely a misty-eyed kind of song!  I know it’s silly, but these songs brought on a wave of nostalgia and I can’t help it – I’m hopelessly sentimental.)  And of course I had to throw some Mario Lanza and Rocco Granata in there too just for a little old school Italian touch.

Okay, pass the proscuitto and let’s get started!

Let’s take a look at the different ingredients that go into making this special dish:

You’ll need a few thin cuts of lean beef (usually top or bottom round roast).  There’s really no right or wrong in terms of what size to get.  If you’re serving 4 people, you can either assemble 4 medium-sized braciole’s or 8 small ones.

Braciole prep 4

Part of the filling consists of pine nuts, raisins, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and herbs.

Braciole prep 6

And then there’s the crowning touch – the prosciutto.  And we’re going to add some tangy Provolone cheese to the filling as well.

Braciole prep 2

The sauce is going to consist of tomatoes, garlic, onions, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh herbs.

Braciole prep 3

…and of course a glass of red wine.

Braciole prep 5

And there you have it!  The beautiful, fresh ingredients that go into making this fabulous, authentic Italian dish!

Braciole di Manza

Okay, let’s make Braciole!

Pound the meat to about 1/4 inch thickness between two pieces of plastic wrap – use the flat side of a meat pounder.  Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Braciole prep 16

Combine the milk-soaked breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, rosemary, garlic, pine nuts, and raisins in a small bowl.

Braciole prep 17

Crush the tomatoes in a large bowl with your hand, discarding the hard cores.  Set aside.

Braciole prep 15

Lay a piece of prosciutto on top of the slice of beef, followed by a slice of Provolone, then place a tablespoon or so of the filling (depending on what size of beef rolls you’re making) in the center.

Braciole prep 20

Fold in the sides of the roll, lengthwise, fold in one end…

Braciole prep 21

Then roll it up, starting at the non-folded in end, pushing and wrapping it tightly.

Braciole prep 22

To secure the rolls, you can use toothpicks or, like I did here, wrap them “gift package” style with some thread.  Just remember to remove it, or the toothpicks, before serving!

Braciole prep 14

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven (I use and love Lodge) over medium-high heat.  Add the rolls, seam side down to seal them.

Braciole prep 7

Generously brown the rolls on all sides.  The browning is essential to adding flavor.  And don’t discard the burnt browned bits on the bottom of the pan!  Also essential to flavor.

Braciole prep 8

Transfer the rolls to a plate and set aside.  Saute the onions and garlic until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Braciole prep 9

Add the red wine and bring to a boil, cooking until the wine is mostly evaporated, about 3-4 minutes, deglazing the pan (scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan).

Braciole prep 10

Add the crushed tomatoes, salt and freshly ground pepper.  Simmer for 3 minutes.

Braciole prep 11

Return the beef rolls.

Braciole prep 12

Add just enough water to cover the rolls so they are submerged.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 3 hours.

Braciole prep 13

Mmmm, the aroma when you finally open the pot!  Add the fresh basil and parsley and simmer for another 2 minutes.

Braciole prep 18

Add salt and pepper to taste.  You’re masterpiece is done!

Braciole prep 19


Traditionally, the braciole are served as the second course (along with a leafy green salad, for example), and the first course is pasta tossed with the delicious tomato sauce.  Serve it all together or separately – however you prefer.

Braciole Involtini di Manza Italian Beef Rolls

Pass the Proscuitto: Braciole di Manza (Italian Beef Rolls in Tomato Sauce)
Serves: 4
  • 1 pound beef top round cut into 4 thin slices, about ¼ inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 slices prosciutto ham
  • 2 slices Provolone cheese, cut in half
  • For the Filling:
  • ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs combined with 2 tablespoons milk (soak for at least 20 minutes)
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • For the Tomato Sauce:
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup dry red wine (such as pinot noir)
  • 1 (28 oz) can stewed tomatoes, crushed with your hands in a bowl, discarding the hard cores
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • Basil leaves, torn, for garnish
  1. For the Filling: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Pound the beef slices until they're about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay a slice of Parma ham on each slice of beef, followed by ½ slice of Provolone and then place 2 tablespoons of the filling in the center. Slightly fold in the sides of the beef, lengthwise, fold one of the ends in, then starting with the other end roll up the slices of beef, pressing firmly so that's it's good and tight. Secure either with toothpicks or wrap the rolls "gift package" style with some thread. (Remember to remove them before serving!)
  3. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef rolls, seam side down to seal the rolls. Generously brown the beef on all sides. Transfer the rolls to a plate and set aside.
  4. Add the onions and garlic to the Dutch oven and saute until they're soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the red wine and bring to a boil, cooking until most of the wine is evaporated, about 3-4 minutes, deglazing the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Return the beef rolls and add just enough water to the pot until the beef rolls are submerged and covered. Return to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 3 hours.
  6. Add the parsley and basil and simmer for another 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. To serve traditional-style, boil some pasta and serve with the sauce either as a first course, followed by the beef rolls and a leafy green salad.


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22 Responses

  1. Celeste

    wrote on

    Soooo excited to make this!!! I’ve been looking for a good braciole recipe! I think I’ll have to make it for the family at Christmas :) Thanks for posting!

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Hi, Celeste! I’m excited that you’re excited! My family really enjoyed these. I served them traditional style along with pasta tossed in the tomato sauce – the tomato sauce, with all those flavors melded into it, is amazing!

  2. wrote on

    These look amazing – and so husband-friendly! ( Sometimes I feel like he’s only going through the motions of dinner unless there’s a big chunk of beef involved ;) ). Can’t wait to give this a try.

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Haha! Oh, isn’t that so typical, though? Thanks for the compliment, Melissa, and for visiting. Now I guess you’d better go and give the man his beef! :)

  3. Rebecca Allison

    wrote on

    Omg I came across this reciepe after watching everyone loves Raymond lol when she cooks a version of this. It is cooking away as I type, it is amazing so far! My partner can’t wait till it’s finished, it smells great. Love your reciepe, the pictures helped heaps, I’ll keep you posted how I go!

    • Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      That’s wonderful, Rebecca! :) So glad you’re happy with it so far and yes, please keep up posted!

  4. Rebecca Allison

    wrote on

    Hey Kim had to let you know how I went :) it was great and everyone loved it, and I didn’t stuff it up so anyone can do it lol definitely will cook it again! Thank you for the recipe

    • Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Wonderful! So glad it was a success, Rebecca! :)

  5. Anonymous

    wrote on

    wow!! I have been making braciole for 30 + years but always knew something was missing. I think these are the ones my grandmother use to make. Can’t wait to make and serve them this Christmas.

    • Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Fantastic! Please let us know how they turn out!

  6. wrote on

    Hi Kim, I’m going to make this tomorrow, it looks great. I’ve had this recently in Rome at a friends house and his mom made it with pork and added olives into the stuffing and it was served with a brown sauce, it was delicious. I’m not going to use the raisins, questionable kids tastes and, potentially, reactions so i’m going to just skip those. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Fantstic, Robert! Yes, please let us know what you think. There are so many variations of Braciole. I like the sound of the pork version you described with the olive stuffing and sauce – sounds delicious!

  7. Beth

    wrote on

    Hi Kimberly. I have made this twice now. Once with flank steak ad once with top round. It has really great flavor but the meat tasted dry, stringy, and overcooked both times. Other recipes I have seen call for 1 hour cooking time in the sauce. Is it really 3 hours? Thanks. I love your site and your pictures.

    • Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Hi Beth, I appreciate the feedback and appreciate the compliment. Dry and stringy doesn’t sound good at all, and that has not been my experience. I did an online search just now to see what other recipes recommend. They vary from everything between 1 hour to 3 hours (for example, one Food Network recipe recommending 1 1/2 hours, Saveur recommending 2 hours, and an Italian website recommending 3). And some call for just 1 hour. I would simply recommend checking it after 90 minutes and determine if the beef is the desired consistency at that point. If not, let it simmer longer.

  8. Mary Matos

    wrote on

    Hi! Your recipe looked very good so I am cookingit now on the stove. I liked the idea of raisins pignoli nuts in it. I’ll let you know how. Ot comes out. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Thanks, Mary! Do let us know how it turned out!

      • Mary Matos

        wrote on

        This brasciole came out wonderful and delicious. The sauce or gravy was so good. I think it is the best Brasciole I have ever made. Cooked for 2 hours and it was perfect. Not dry at all. I have some leftover sauce which I am going to use tonight on pan fried pork chops done Milanese style. Served with left over pennne. Thanks again for posting this recipe!

        • Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet

          wrote on

          Mary, I am so thrilled to hear that!! Thanks so much for your detailed feedback! Best, Kimberly

  9. Carlo

    wrote on

    I’m from Napoli and we do call it braciole

    • Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Thanks for the input, Carlo.

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