This recipe has been handed down by the wonderful women in my Italian family. When my Mum or my aunts ask me what I would love them to make when we visit them in Australia, this one is at the top of my list. It is a labour of love but definitely worth the effort.
Our special occasion was having my (non Italian) cousin from Perth come to stay with her boyfriend for the weekend with us in Oxfordshire. I knew that a puritanically Italian meal would remind her of childhood meals at my Mum’s and my aunty Elaine’s, so I designed a meal around a main course of beef involtini cooked slowly in a traditional tomato sauce (sugo al pomodoro).
I have found hundreds of variations of this recipe, region to region and family to family. Ours is based on thin slices of beef or veal (I used topside) wrapped around a quarter of a hard boiled egg, a few slivers of garlic, some pieces of pancetta, a cube of parmesan cheese and a few fresh basil leaves. The involtini are tied up with string, browned off in a little oil and butter, and then left to simmer for 1 – 2 hours in the sugo.
This experience began at my local butcher in Witney. I explained the dish and although it was new to him, we agreed that if he was to provide the beef as he would for the English dish ‘beef olives’ we would be starting at the right place. It was a busy Saturday morning, but he willingly offered to slice and bash the beef topside and saved me a heap of time. I left with 12 perfectly cut, thin pieces. About a kilo and half in total.
Herb leaf fresh pasta with sautéed mushrooms and chicken stock (see recipe)
Beef involtini with sugo al pomodoro
Roasted chipped potatoes with rosemary and garlic
Ricetta tipica (look it up in Jamie’s Italy)
Cherry tomatoes with fresh oregano and olive oil
Steamed asparagus spears
Banoffi pie (not Italian but my wife’s specialty)