Involtini are a popular dish in Italy and the variety is as great as there are cooks and chefs. One of my favorite involtini is that of pesce spada (sword fish), but difficult to make here because sword fish is cut into such thick cutlets. Involtini always start with a very thin piece of meat – fish, veal, chicken, beef… For years I have been making involtini which always began with a piece of thin beef over which was laid a piece of prosciutto, and things went from there with different types of stuffing. After browning the meat I added tomato sauce and cooked it until tender serving it usually on a bed of orecchiette as I had first encountered the dish in Puglia. Orecchiette, so called because they resemble little ears, are a specialty of the Puglian region. Here a serving of orecchiette photographed in a restaurant in Puglia. Orecchiette are available in the pasta section of many markets. Whole Foods markets it under its own label.
Then last week I happened to leaf through an old copy of Gourmet which was their Rome Issue from 2003. I was surprised by this version of involtini and made it. Delicious and simple. After I browned the meat, as usual, I added 2 cups of my homemade basil-Roasted garlic tomato sauce and served it with orecchiette “of course!”
Several cuts of beef are ideal to make involtini and it will depend a bit on the butcher. Most markets sell thin sliced top or bottom beef round, eye of the round, etc., depending on the beef at hand. Our local market labels this thin cut as “Breakfast steak”
- 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/3 cup green olives
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 6-8 thin beef scallops (see photograph)
Put the first 7 ingredients into the food processor and pulse several times until all ingredients are chopped and well mixed.
Pound the beef scallops with a mallet to a 1/8″ thickness. (I have found that a good base for pounding or handling meat is a leaf of “freezer paper” available in a roll along with other kitchen paper products. One side has a water-proof coating which I lay down on the chopping block using the paper side. It saves cleanup and it is more steril.)
Spoon about a tablespoon of the prepared mixture on each scallop and spread it with the back of the spoon.
Roll up each scallop and secure with toothpicks (or tie with kitchen twine – I do either!)
Heat the olive oil in a skillet and brown the involtini turning once or twice. (If you are using kitchen twine it is easier to turn the involtini).
If using a tender cut of meat, you could simply serve the involtini at this point. Alternatively, I usually add 2 cups of tomato sauce and serve the involtini over a bed of orecchiette.
If serving with tomato sauce:
Either use a pre-prepared sauce as I do, or just before making the involtini, begin your sauce and let it be simmering while you are preparing the involtini. Since the involtini are covered with sauce, they freeze well. I usually make enough for two meals and freeze one of them. I have placed this recipe in the “make ahead” category as it is a quick meal if you defrost the dish in the microwave while the orecchiette are being prepared it becomes a “30 minute or less” meal (!!)
Suggestion: For great videos on many different types and methods of Italian involtini, go to YouTube and search on “involtini”. Since Italian talk with their hands, ha, ha, there will be no language barrier.