Fabrizia’s Sicilian Involtini di Carne and a Summer Bounty Workshop

When I think of cucina povera — literally “cooking of the poor” or peasant cuisine — I think of things like this dish of Sicilian involtini, which are satisfyingly filling and relatively inexpensive to make for a large gathering as a little goes a long way.

We got to make and taste these when I was at Anna Tasca Lanza last year for their annual tomato paste making in August with Fabrizia Lanza. I said to myself as I took a deeper second bite, this will be the first thing I make when I get home. It turns out I actually made Fabrizia’s chocolate cake first.

But these involtini were so memorable, incredibly tasty and comforting. Mariù, my daughter, was with me and was inspired to draw this recipe while she watched us prepare it. Basically, you have long skewers of little sandwiches of soft white bread, thin slices of beef, ham, cheese, onions and aromatics like mint, bay leaf and orange zest. Pistachios too. We ate them, to the sound of satisfied sounds of mmmmmmm and ahhhhhhh in the courtyard of the beautiful Case Vecchie in central Sicily. I can’t wait to be back there in September this year to host a summer bounty workshop. It filled up so quickly that we are putting on another one scheduled for September 2023, keep your eyes peeled on their calendar or email them to find out when it is announced!

Fabrizia’s Involtini di Carne

These make an absolutely wonderful sharing dish or family dish but feel free to scale down if preparing for one or two. Fabrizia suggests being “Sicilian” and playing around with what you have — exchange pistachios with almonds or even sun-dried tomatoes, for example. The recipe comes from Fabrizia Lanza’s Coming Home to Sicily: Seasonal Harvests and Cooking from Case Vecchie. This makes about 2-3 involtini per person for a generous serving, as these seem small but are filling.

Serves 8

For the filling:

1 small red onion, finely diced
60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
115 grams (2 cups) stale white sandwich bread, crusts removed, cut into 5mm (1⁄4 inch) cubes
115 grams (1 cup) prosciutto cotto (cooked ham), cut into 5mm (1⁄4 inch) cubes
115 grams (1 cup) caciocavallo or mild provolone cheese, cut into 5mm (1⁄4 inch) cubes
25 grams (1/4 cup) pistachios, finely chopped
20 grams (1⁄2 cup) fresh parsley and/or mint, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 orange or lemon, zested
Fine sea salt and black pepper

For the meat rolls and skewers:

24 slices (about 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds) of top round beef or veal, which should be pounded to 2.5mm (1⁄8 inch) thick and cut into rectangles measuring circa 12×10 cm (5 x 4 inches)
2 small red onions, cut into 2 cm (1 inch) wedges
About 24 fresh bay leaves
500 grams (1 pound) white sandwich bread (day old/stale is ideal), cut into 1 cm (1⁄2 inch) thick slices
360 grams (3 cups) breadcrumbs to coat involtini
120 ml (1⁄2 cup) olive oil


For the filling, cook the diced red onion with the olive oil, then add the diced bread. Cook lightly and stir to incorporate all the flavours together. Remove from heat and bring to room temperature, then season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese, ham, pistachios, beaten egg, orange or lemon zest and chopped herbs.

Heat the oven to 200C/400F.

Roll a small portion of the filling in a ball and place at the end of the sliced beef. Tuck in the sides and roll away from you into a tight little bundle no bigger than an egg. Place on a plate and repeat with the rest of the beef slices.

Thread the beef involtini onto long metal skewers sandwiched between slices of onion wedges, bay leaf and bread, alternating evenly. In two large trays pour the olive oil in one and the breadcrumbs in the other and dip the long skewers into the olive oil on each side to coat, then into the breadcrumbs to coat completely.

Roast in a baking tray for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. This is just perfect with a green salad dressed in olive oil and red wine vinegar and a bowl of olives.


  1. Maxwell says:

    I can’t wait to eat.

  2. Maurizio says:

    Reminds me of my travels as a kid back to Italy! Love these.

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