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Grandma Gennaco’s Beef Braciole

Grandma Gennaco's Beef Braciole by A Family Feast

Today we’re sharing a very special family recipe for Beef Braciole that was passed down to our family from my husband’s grandmother.  This recipe originated from her mother, Grandma Gennaco, and it has stood the test of time for over 100 years.

To make the beef braciole (pronounced bra’zhul which means ‘slices of beef’), a tender flank steak is pounded or butterflied to an even thickness and then rolled with a flavorful filling of salt pork, garlic, pesto, parsley, prosciutto and Pecorino Romano cheese.  After being cut into smaller pieces and tied with a string to hold them together, the rolls of meat are seared in a pan until browned.  Then the beef rolls are placed in tomato sauce to cook through to fork-tender perfection, then sliced and served over pasta.

Grandma Gennaco's Beef Braciole by A Family Feast

Over the years, this beef braciole was served as a special Sunday meal at my husband’s family gatherings.  While dinner was cooking, Jack’s boyhood job was to walk down to the local Italian bakery to get bread for the meal.  When he returned, he was so happy to see his grandfather – always dressed in a shirt, tie, and grey cardigan sweater.  Jack would run over to greet him because he knew hidden in those sweater pockets were M&M’s or Life Saver candies that Grandpa had hidden in there specifically for Jack to find.

This recipe brings back some very happy family memories for my husband – what are some of your own long-standing family recipes?  We’d love to hear about them!


Grandma Gennaco’s Beef Braciole

Grandma Gennaco's Beef Braciole by A Family Feast
  • Prep Time: 45 mins
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 servings


For the rolled meat

  • 2 pounds of flank steak only (do not use top or bottom round)
  • 4 ounces salt pork (7 ounce piece with skin)
  • 5 garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • ½ cup roughly chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 slices prosciutto chopped
  • 2 ounces pesto
  • ¼ cup shredded Pecorino Romano
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the tomato sauce

  • 4 cloves sliced garlic
  • 4-6 basil leaves minced
  • 2 tablespoons mint minced
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 28-ounce cans ground or whole tomato (if possible, use Pomodoro San Marzano tomatoes such as Cento or Pastene brand)
  • 28 ounces of water (use tomato can to measure)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter to round out flavor if too acidic


  1. Depending on how thick your flank steak is, you may have to butterfly the meat (run a long sharp knife horizontal to meat and board from one end to the other so you end up with two equal flat pieces) If the piece of flank is too thin to butterfly then pounding to desired thickness will do. Regardless, either method will still require further pounding to get the meat to the desired thinness.
  2. Cut cross marks every 2-3 inches on the beef against the grain about half way through. Cover with plastic and pound to about ¼ – ½ inch thick.
  3. In a small food chopper or mill, make a paste out of salt pork, garlic, parsley and olive oil. (Do not use the salt pork rind.)
  4. In a small bowl, mix prosciutto, pesto and Romano. Add pureed salt pork mixture and mix.
  5. Sprinkle pounded beef with salt and pepper and spread filling on meat, leaving one long edge free. Roll ending on side with no filling and finish with seam side down.
  6. Then, cut beef into six separate rolls. Using butcher’s twine, seal each end of each roll.
  7. Place olive oil in 10 quart Dutch oven and heat over medium to medium high heat. Brown braciole rolls until browned on all sides. About 2-3 minutes per side. Set seared beef aside.
  8. In same pan, lower heat to medium and add slice garlic, basil, mint and red pepper flakes. Cook for only a minute or less until garlic just starts to turn color.
  9. Add tomatoes, water, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Reduce to low heat to simmer. Ideally, place a heat diffuser between pan and flames (indirect heat will prevent the sauce from burning in the bottom of your pan; a diffuser is an inexpensive purchase). In a pinch you can use flattened aluminum cans with the paper label removed and both ends cut off.
  10. Bring to a simmer and place seared beef into sauce. Cover slightly and simmer gently for 90 minutes.
  11. Remove beef, clip off strings and cut each piece into about four slices for serving. (Alternately the individual rolls may be served as a portion without slicing.)
  12. At this point, you have a choice. During cooking, a lot of the fat from the salt pork will float to the top. Remove it if you don’t want all of that pork fat in the sauce (although the flavor is fantastic!). We ladled off about half of it and stirred the rest into the sauce. Puree the sauce with an immersion blender if you used whole canned tomatoes. If the sauce is too acidic for you, add a little butter to smooth out the flavor. Serve beef and sauce over your favorite cooked pasta.

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    Leave a Comment


  1. This looks amazing!! Such a fabulous family dinner memory 🙂

  2. Holy smokes does this look awesome! I am 1/2 Italian and I wish MY great grandmother had left me a recipe like this 🙂 Feel free to share anytime at Wicked good Wednesdays at http://www.ilovemydisorganizedlife.com


    • Thanks Rachel! Will do!

    • I’m Italian, but I’ve never seen pesto with braciole and I love pesto. I’ll have to try it this way. The other thing I do different is that I put lots of romano cheese in my gravy (in Boston we call it gravy when it has meat in it). The cheese makes a really big difference. I cook onions with the garlic. When it’s all the ingredients are mixed together I add extra garlic powder, onion powder, parsley and a tsp. of sugar. The sugar is what makes it less acetic. I cook it for about 3 to 4 hours. I taste test it in between and if it needs more flavor, I add another big handful of cheese.

  3. Ok, I’m officially getting no sleep tonight as I will be too busy hoarding you recipes into my favorites… Looks AMAZING! I’ve always wanted to make Braciole.

  4. Jennifer Polizzi :

    I am 1/2 Sicillian..my grandpa Polizzi made this a recipe learned from his parents Vencenza Borio & Louis Polizzi. It was a meal you had only for special gathering due too being pricy for the time. When he passed..we talked of this dish and the memories it held and wished we had asked for it. I am so happy to surprise my aunt tomorrow for her bday with this dish for it is so much more than the actual dish but for more the meaning it held and the many memories it will keep alive. Food for Italians is life..it’s personal. Thk u!!!

  5. Nick Gugliuzza :


  6. I’m enjoying some time off at the end of the year, my kids are home from college and I decided to treat my family to a special dinner last night. I’ve always wanted to make a braciole and this recipe sounded delicious. WOW. It was a hit and I can’t wait to eat the leftovers this morning! The sauce is rich and flavorful- I could drink it out of a cup!

  7. Looks so good that I am going to make for a dinner party. I will 8 adults and 6 children. Do you think the recipe as is will be enough or should I double it? Thanks!

  8. We made Grandma Gennaco’s Beef Braciole for Christmas. Did a few things creatively but all and all followed the base recipe and it was FABULOUS! So tender and flavorful! I swear it’s the garlic salt pork paste trick that does it. Thank you for sharing a piece of history! Everyone loved it and it will be an annual tradition in our house:)

  9. I come from an Italian family. This is one of the few recipes for braciole that’s for real.

  10. Patricia Niessner :

    To cut acid in sauce add a fourth of a teaspoon of baking soda. My mother was a chef in a Italian restaurant and this was her secret to cut acid. Also romano cheese in meatballs and sauce is great too

  11. Hi
    I would love to print your recipes, but your website jusst keeps loading and loading; is it something on my end or what? Let me know, as I want to print so many of your delish recipes!!

    • Hi Alice! I’m so sorry! Our recipe plugin ZipList is having issues with the print function in Internet Explorer. (I am hoping it is fixed soon.) If you are able to view our site with Firefox or Chrome you should be able to print the recipes without issue. Thanks for writing to us and I’m sorry for the inconvenience!

  12. Barbara Esterday :

    I just found your recipes on facebook. I can’t wait to try your tomato sauce and so many others! Thank you and God Bless!

  13. Yum! I made this tonight it was delicious!!!

  14. Wow, how wonderful of you and your husband to share this family recipe. You must be great people! I would love to try this, and will someday soon. I loved the story with the granpma in his shirt and tie and hiding candy in his sweater. What a great memory for your husband. God bless you both. I am pinning to Pinterest to make this. Thank you.
    Best, Gloria

    • Thank you so much for writing to us Gloria! It is indeed a recipe that is near and dear to my husband’s heart! I hope you enjoy the recipe!

  15. Thanks for your reply, Martha. Shows what a wonderful person you are. I got your reply on email and came back here to leave another comment, and I also now took the time to read the comments you received above… What lovely comments! Especially from other Italians and Italian cooks who gave you major kudos. Your hubby’s Grandma in heaven is surely smiling and very proud. Again, thank you for sharing this old family recipe. Many do NOT like to give something like this up so, again, it shows how nice you and your husband are. You look like a lovely couple in your photo. Oh, enough, I will give you and your hubby a big head with all of these compliments. 😉
    Gloria –p.s. I am Polish, Irish and German, but would always have liked to have had some Italian in me. 🙂 But, trust me, I cook enough Italian to be one! LOL! xxoo

  16. My sister used to make this years ago when she was a newlywed. I never had it before or since an it was awesome! I remember hers having hard boiled eggs in it. Does anyone do this or am I just confused?

    • Hi Tessa – We haven’t heard of adding hard boiled egg to braciole – but it’s possible that your sister was following a different regional variation that included it! I’ve also read that eggs were sometimes added to sauce (gravy) as a less expensive protein than meat – so perhaps the recipe she followed used egg for that reason as well. Hope that helps! Thanks for writing to us today!

  17. There are restaurants in the North End (Boston) that have hard boiled egg in the recipe. I agree that it is probably regional.

  18. Hi Martha and Jack!
    I have just found your site and I must say that I will be hanging out here more than in my own kitchen! Just kidding, but you have some wonderful, amazing recipes here. I would like to ask you about the “flank steak” in this recipe. I am from the “old school” way of doing things although I don’t feel my age! LOL To me, from years way back, “flank” steak was the piece of meat that you scored before cooking. The fairly thin piece of meat that you put stuffing, of sorts, inside, rolled it up and usually baked it. Now, there is another cut of meat that is referred to as “flank,” called London broil. Can you tell me which is the one to use in this recipe? I can’t wait to make this as it looks so delicious. Thank you so much and I will be visiting here often.

    • Thank you so much Diane! We’re so glad you found our site and hope you enjoy our recipes! For this braciole, you definitely want the flank steak in your first example. London broil sold in the supermarket isn’t always (or usually) the true flank cut of beef you want for this recipe. London Broil is more a method of cooking – and we too have seen beef packages labeled as ‘London Broil’ but it’s a little misleading because it doesn’t tell you specifically which cut of beef you are really buying. My suggestion is to ask your butcher (or the butcher at the grocery store) specifically for flank steak – and hopefully they will be able to point you in the right direction! I hope that helps clarify – but please feel free to message us back if you need further clarification! Thanks again – Martha

  19. Hello! I found your site around last Christmas, it was my first time hosting Christmas dinner in our new home. My grandmother used to always make braciole for Christmas so I decided that’s what I was going to do. I did make the filling a little different but I want to thank you for having such awesome pictures and instructions! I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to make it it without them 🙂 I served it with parmesan risotto and grilled asparagus, and tiramisu for dessert. My aunts said it would make my italian grandmother proud 😉 I will try this filling next time!

    • Thank you so much for writing to us Erin! And – we’re thrilled that you AND your aunts enjoyed the recipe! Your menu sounds fantastic too – a perfect Italian meal!

  20. Made this for Sunday Supper and it turned out fantastic. Prepared the meat one day ahead without cooking. I used 3 cans of tomato sauce, the big ones, San Marzano and reduced over 3.5 hours. Used Parmesano Romano instead of Pecorino and did not cut the rolls of meat further until serving. Also added a glass of red wine once the meat was browned and let it reduce before adding the tomato. So good. Thank you for your recipe.

  21. I made this last night. As I said on Facebook, the best use of a flank steak ever. Grazie mille!

  22. Made this recipe this past weekend. It is over the top delicious! We have been trying to master the creating of the perfect Braciole and we have done it with this recipe. Amazed by the concept of using salt pork paste and pesto! So creative, so authentic and soooo good. I did cook the beef for an extra 1/2 hour. Just wanted to make sure that the beef was tender, which it was. I noticed that some of the fat rendered out during the last 1/2 hour so this was probably a good thing. I also skimmed the top of the excess fat.
    My Italian grandmother would be so proud of this. She passed away when I was 14. I do remember all the meals that she made and was so impressed. No one could do what she did! Your website is the closest to my memories! Thank you for sharing and bringing us all back and now forward to new memorable Italian meals!
    I just subscribed to your website!

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to write to us Pam – and we’re so happy that you enjoyed the recipe! This recipe is near and dear to our hearts as you might guess – and knowing that it helps you and your family remember and honor your own grandmother makes it even more special! Thanks again – you’ve made our day!

  23. Grandma Gennaco’s braciole will be New Years dinner. It sounds wonderful.

  24. Just made and enjoyed your braciole. Absolutely delicious! I think he salt pork and pesto helped intensive the flavors in the sauce. We added a cup of red wine to the sauce to make it a little more complex. We also ended up cooking the dish for 4 hours because the 2 pieces we ate after 2 1/2 hours were too tough (but still tasty). Why do you recommend only using flank steak? I would have thought that top or bottom round would 1) be easier to cut into evenly thin slices and 2) cook down to a softer stewed meat.

    • Hi Claire – My husband Jack is sitting here next to me as I write this… 🙂 He recommends flank steak for flavor as well as texture. You could use a top of the round roast but after cooking a long time, that cut of beef could end up drying out. (Another reason to use flank!) Hope that helps – we’re glad you enjoyed our recipe!