Cooking the Italian way with Gennaro Contaldo

Recipes that evoke Italian life at its most enticing, Passione is the story of Gennaro Contaldo’s love affair with Italian food. This ‘Stuffed beef rolls in tomato ragu’ recipe is traditionally made every Sunday in all regions of southern Italy.

It is a simple dish to prepare and takes about two hours to cook – some traditionalists will cook it for longer to get an even richer tomato sauce, but if you follow this recipe two hours will suffice. The tomato sauce is used to flavour pasta for the primo (pasta course) and the meat is eaten as a secondo (main course). Any leftover sauce can be used to flavour pasta dishes throughout the week.

serves 6

12 small thin sirloin steaks

25g/1oz Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

a handful of fresh parsley, torn

salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the sauce:

6 tbsp olive oil

150ml/¼ pint red wine

1 onion, very finely chopped

1 celery stalk, very finely chopped

2 tbsp tomato concentrate or tomato purée, diluted in 400ml/14fl oz lukewarm water

2 x 400g/14oz tins of chopped tomatoes

a handful of fresh basil leaves


Arrange the slices of meat on a chopping board or a clean work surface and flatten them with a meat tenderiser (if you don’t have one, place a flat wooden spatula over the meat and bash with the palm of your hand).

Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with the grated Parmesan, garlic and parsley. Roll each slice up tightly and secure well with toothpicks.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. When hot, lower the heat, add the meat rolls and seal well on all sides. Increase the heat again, add the wine and simmer until it has reduced by half. Remove the meat and set aside.

Add the onion and celery to the pan and stir well. Cook until the remainder of the wine has nearly evaporated, then put the meat back in the pan and pour over the diluted tomato concentrate and the chopped tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the basil. Lower the heat and partially cover with a lid. Cook gently for 2 hours, stirring from time to time. Check the seasoning.

Serve the tomato sauce with some cooked pasta such as tagliatelle or large rigatoni. Then serve the meat rolls as a main course with a green salad.

The featured recipe is from Gennaro’s Passione: The Classic Italian Cookery Book by Gennaro Contaldo.

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