Involtini alla Piazzetta: A Recipe for Easter from the Heart of Campania

 

Most Easters I am on the road. I love visiting farms and friends in rural parts of Italy for the long holiday weekend. Since we are firmly in the “red zone” until after Easter wraps up, I’m staying put in Lazio but already dreaming of 2022 when I hope to spend Pasqua in one of my favorite places ever: Cilento, a mountainous coastal sub-region in Campania. For me, the area feels like the Amalfi Coast must have 200 years ago before Grand Tourists descended on its seaside villages, changing them forever.

Cilento itself is spectacular, with its remove mountain villages and stunning towns on the sea, but I also love the drive down there. I time my departure from Rome so I arrive at Vannulo near Paestum in the late morning for some incredible buffalo mozzarella sold from their shop just feet from where their water buffalo live their best lives pampered with showers, massages, music, and an organic diet. Sufficiently stocked with the best mozzarella di bufala around, I continue south, turn off the highway and follow the mountain roads to Valle dell’Angelo, a village with 150 inhabitants. There, Carmela Bruno and her partner Ali serve one of my favorite Easter dishes: frittata-stuffed involtini cooked in tomato sauce. It’s just one part of a steady parade of spring-infused dishes on the Easter menu at their trattoria and albergo diffuso Osteria La Piazzetta.  It’s a simple and delicious secondo that works great for Easter–or any time! As a bonus, you can use the sauce you cooked the involtini in to dress pasta. Or scrap the meat and just make the frittata, which can be a snack or a meal on its own.

Involtini alla Piazzetta

Serves 4 to 6

 

4 eggs, beaten

½ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano

Handful of fresh mint, chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound rump roast (or flap meat for carne asada), cut into roughly 3-ounce slices

1 garlic clove, smashed

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand

5 or 6 fresh basil leaves

1 cup dry white wine

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, pecorino, mint, salt, and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small nonstick skillet over low heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the egg mixture to the skillet. Using a wooden spoon, stir a few times, moving from the outside of the pan toward the center. When the eggs are set in the middle, gently flip the frittata: set a small plate on top of the pan and using a gloved hand to flip everything upside down, then slide the frittata, cooked-side up, right back into the hot pan. Cover and cook until the edges start to come away from the sides of the pan and the middle starts to rise. The frittata is finished when it is neither wet nor wobbly and is cooked through without being dry or leathery. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the frittata to cool before unmolding, about 20 minutes. To unmold, run a heatproof spatula around the edges and underneath the frittata and slide it onto a serving plate. Slice into 6 roughly equal pieces (long rectangles the width of the meat slices).

Lay the slices of beef flat on your work surface and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Place one piece of frittata at one short end of the meat. Roll the meat around the frittata, forming a medium-tight involtino. Use twine or a couple of toothpicks inserted flush with the meat to keep the roll closed.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the involtini and brown them on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the rolls from the pan and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the garlic to the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it just turns golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and the basil. Season with salt. Bring to a simmer, then add the wine. When the alcohol aroma has dissipated and the sauce begins to simmer again, about 3 minutes, reduce the heat to low and return the involtini to the pan. The meat should be mostly covered by the tomato sauce. Cook, covered, until the meat is fork-tender, 1½ to 2 hours, checking occasionally to be sure the meat is at least two-thirds submerged and adding water as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or allow the dish to rest in the refrigerator for up to 3 days to further develop the flavors.

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