This is another recipe of the clever Italian mammas of the past. It’s called falsomagro or farsumagru a term referring to stuffed lean meat.
The stuffing was not meant to create fancy food. It was a way to stretch portions to feed the family using inexpensive ingredients such as inferior cut meats, bread, a little fat, a bit of cheese. My grandma, a young widow in postwar Sicily, fed her six children like kings by stuffing everything with bread.
Despite its modest background, the falsomagro is a splendid dish. It’s tasty in a very Southern, garlicky, herby, Italian way. It’s a great dish for a party as it can be prepared in advance and served at room temperature. And because of its inner surprises, it’s also somewhat healthy as the portion of red meat is relatively small.
- 1 kg (2 lb) beef
- 30 gr ( 1 oz) guanciale (subst. with pancetta or spicy salami), thinly sliced
- 6 tablespoon seasoned bread crumbs
- 250 gr ( 1/2 lb) mild cheese like caciotta (subst. with young provolone) sliced
- 2 organic hard-boiled eggs
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts
- 1/2 tablespoon raisins
- 2 medium onions quartered
- dry white wine, extra virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper
- special equipment: kitchen string and parchment paper or two oven bags
For this recipe I ask my butcher 2 large slices of beef, approx. 25 x 25 x 1 cm ( 10 x 10 x 1/2 inch). Honestly, I have no idea which cut he gives me as he always disappears in the back of the shop to prepare it. I do trust him blindly as he is the best butcher in town.
Each slice makes one roll which is more than enough for 4 people. For about the same effort, I always make 2 rolls and I freeze any leftover for another meal.
Before stuffing, place the meat on a cutting board and beat it flat with a meat pounder or other heavy object of your liking.
Arrange the slices of guanciale over the slices, sprinkle with bread crumbs, pine nuts and raisins, then top with the cheese, eggs and a twist or two of black pepper. Now roll it. Beginning with the side nearest you, roll up the slice, gently pressing on the filling and making sure it does not slip out from ends. Tie the roll crosswise with string at 1.5 cm (3/4-inch) intervals, then tie one time lengthwise.
Preheat oven at 220 °C/430 °F.
Heat a cast iron casserole pan over medium-high heat and when hot add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the meat and brown it evenly, turning every few minutes. This step will take about 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the rolls. I prefer to brown one roll at the time, but it’s up to you. Keep the pan covered to avoid messing up your cooktop!
Using thongs or thick plastic gloves transfer each rolls on a sheet of parchment paper or inside an oven bag. Season rolls with salt and pepper, arrange a quartered onion along each roll, sprinkle with one tablespoon white wine then seal the paper parcel or oven bag and transfer in an oven tin.
Roast for 30 min turning once. Remove from the oven. The parcels will have puffed up with steam. Cover with a lid and let them rest 20 more minutes while indirect heat will cook the meat some more but keep it moist. This will also stabilize the rolls. Note that if you slice them when they are still hot, they will fall apart.
When cool enough to handle, cut the parcels open and pour the cooking juices and onion in the casserole which you have used to brown the rolls. Reduce over hight heat until creamy and liquidize with a blender. Pour onto a serving plate. Slice rolls and arrange on top of the sauce on the serving plate. Cover with foil until ready to eat or briefly rewarm in the microwave.