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Italian meals can sometimes be quite complex to prepare correctly, but one of the simplest side dishes in the Italian cuisine that is just as delicious as a more complex offering is a braciola. This simple side dish consists of thin slices of beef, pan-fried in their own juices. While this is the simplest definition of a braciola, the dish itself can be prepared and served in different ways to complement Italian meals, or to complement American dishes for a variety of tastes.
One way to prepare a braciola is to pan-fry the beef with salt, pepper, a touch of olive oil, and a small amount of garlic. Once the braciola has been lightly pan-fried, the pieces of beef are often coated with bread crumbs and/or a small amount of cheese. The braciola is then rolled and tied, and placed in a tomato sauce to simmer. This adds flavor both to the braciola and to the sauce; the latter can then be used for a main dish of pasta. The pasta is tossed in the sauce that has been simmered with braciola, adding zest and flavor to the dish.
In the U.S., braciole — the plural form of braciola — are often served differently than the recipe mentioned above. Thin slices of beef may be substituted with thin slices of pork, and the pan-fried meat is also rolled, as mentioned above. However, the slices of meat are stuffed with cheese and egg to give them a thick consistency, and other ingredients may be added, such as other meats, cheeses, vegetables, and so on. Braciole, prepared this way, are often served as their own course, rather than as a side dish, with or without an accompanying sauce.
When the braciole are rolled, they must be held together for cooking and serving. While a toothpick can be used for this purpose, the more traditional way to hold the braciole together is by typing them with string. The rolled meat, tied together with string, is pan-fried and then placed in a sauce to continue cooking, the string still attached. The string is not removed until the meal is served. In formal settings, the cook may choose to remove the string before serving the braciole, but in less formal settings — such as at the family dinner table — the string is commonly left on the braciole and the individual who will be eating the dish must remove the string himself.
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