For A Fun Take On Braciole, Anthony Scotto Advises You To Think Outside The Box

Braciole may strike people as one of many traditional Italian dishes but, like so many recipes that have been adopted by the Italian-American community, it's far more open to interpretation than you might think. In the United States, the classic version of braciole is a thin-pounded slice of steak, rolled up with cheese, breadcrumbs, herbs, and prosciutto braised in tomato sauce. Despite some leeway with the cut of steak you can use (usually flank steak or top round), it's a formula that can seem pretty set in stone. However, back in Italy, regional variations can mix up almost every part of the equation. It's fundamentally a dish of filled, rolled meat, and what that means is up to the cook.

Tasting Table reached out to Anthony Scotto, chef and owner of Pelato and Luogo in Nashville, to ask how he mixes up this famous Italian dish. Scotto told us, "For the filling, there are so many varieties and options to pick from." At his restaurant Pelato, "we use a thinly sliced pork shoulder stuffed with cheese, pine nuts and herbs." Scotto, who operated Fresco by Scotto in Midtown Manhattan for over 30 years, knows the ins and outs of Italian-American cooking and says, "Although this is not the cheapest way or the most traditional way, I think it's our job to take a classic Italian American dish and bring it to a whole new level." And of course, Pelato's braciole is just one way to do it.

Everything from the meat to the sauce is open to interpretation

While the braciole at Scotto's restaurants still strongly resembles his Brooklyn Italian cooking, he knows your creativity can go far beyond that. He said, "Another take on a nontraditional braciole could be a thinly sliced chicken cutlet stuffed with ham, cheese, and spinach or a thinly sliced salmon filet stuffed with crab, mustard sauce, and arugula." If it's salty, saucy, and meaty, you can roll it up into your own variation of braciole.

While the protein is the easiest way to imagine experimenting with braciole, the filling has so many options that even if you stick with steak you can try a lot of new things. Grated Parmigiano Reggiano is the standard choice, but why not get extra melty with smoked provolone or fontina cheese? Don't love prosciutto? You could give things a kick with calabrese salami as part of a spicy beef braciole or chopped pancetta mixed in with breadcrumbs.

Even the tomato sauce, seemingly the most non-negotiable part of Italian cuisine, has a world of delicious substitutions. A long braise in a red wine sauce could evoke the classic pairing of steak and bordelaise sauce, while a pan-seared braciole would be great with a creamy peppercorn sauce. When does braciole stop being braciole? Well, as Anthony Scotto knows, that's up to nobody but you.