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Bring Out The Falsomagro

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There is more than meets the eye to this cult Sicilian Sunday roast - a stunning highlight of any family meal.

Today I bring you a cult Sicilian dish, delicious cousin of the British Sunday roast or the French Beef Carrot but uniquely Sicilian. You may think Sicily as a sun-drenched earty heaven, but it is first and foremost a place of poor and hard-working farmers who always had to make do with a scarcity of food. Meat, especially, was always rare, and Sicilian mamas excelled at using all sorts of tricks to make a tiny bit of meat go a long way. Falsomagro, also called Farsumagru, uses a small amount of premium veal cuts and stuffs it with a mixture of ground meat, breadcrumbs, ham, cheese and hard-boiled whole eggs that give its unique look when cut.

Sometimes the true etymology of a word becomes so lost to most people that a new, popular etymology rewrites the word. In mainstream Italian, we call this falsomagro or false-lean or false-lent. Contemporary Italians wonder why. 'Because it looks lean but there is a lot inside' they venture. While there is certainly 'a lot inside', it does not look overly lean. The recipe was apparently invented during the culinary reign of the Monsù, those French cooks who operated in wealthy Palermitan households starting with the Anjou rule. Others place it in the 15th century under the Spaniard rule. In any case, the original name meant 'lean meat stuffed', as the veal outside is lean (magro) and is stuffed (farci in French). If it was 'farcie de maigre' - stuffed with lean stuffing - originally, it certainly no longer applies. The usual dialectal name is farsumagru was translated into falsomagro, but you might also encounter rollò, braciuluni, braciolone or brociolone. Traditionally bullock meat is used instead of veal, and the meat is fried in lard and not olive oil.

700gr / 1.5 lbs veal in wide but thin slices
300gr / 0.75lbsveal or pork ground meat
50gr / 2 oz mortadella or salami slices
3-4hard-boiled eggs
1 egg
75gr / 2 oz caciocavallo, pecorino or parmesan, finely grated
50gr tuma, provola, caciocavallo or fontina cut into sticks
2 onions
400gr / 1lbs tomato purée
1 glass red wine
75gr / 2 oz breadcrumbs
1 cinamon stick
red chili pepper
10-12 potatoes

Let's prepare the stuffing - clockwise from the bottom left: ground meat, ground parmesan or caciocavallo cheese, breadcrumbs and one egg.

Mix with your bare hands. No mixer please, that would una mancanza di rispetto.

Flavor with the snipped parsley...

... and combine into a ball. Surprise, it holds together mostly thanks to the meat's cohesive power.

Let's the fun begin. First make sure your guests are safely busy in the den and lock the kitchen, so that nobody will be able to barge in and catch you with an half-exploded falsomagro. Lay a clean kitchen towel on the table. I boiled this one a couple times with beef, carrots and a pig's foot, hence the color. The point is that it be clean and devoid of any detergent. Carefully tile the veal slices so that they overlap a little. You should aim for a rectangular shape. If your butcher was lazy when he sliced the veal and your slices are too thick, hammer them with a kitchen cleaver held flat. Don't be shy, this is a Palermitan recipe, per carità!

Spread the meat stuffing, leaving about 5cm/2'' on every side. Covers with the salami or mortadella or ham slices.

Let cut through the cheese - you need a full fat cheese that will melt nicely, such a young caciocavallo or fontina.

Spread one onion sliced thinly over the mortadella layer, then tile the cheese sticks on top. It sounds less and less magro (lean) as the layers go by.

Now the hard boiled eggs. If you start sweating and wonder how the hell you're going to close your falsomagro, you won't be the first. But as the old Sicilian saying goes, 'You'll be amazed what can fit inside a farsumagru'.

Start tying salami-style. This is quite easy. Just tie one of the end with a piece of string and do not cut it. Then pull the string about 5cm/2'' from where you made your first loop and circle again around the falsomagro. Pass the string inside the loop and pull (picture). You'll need to use all three pairs of hands for this. I'm not Vishnu and my falsomagro exploded on its rear end, with two eggs rolling out. But focus on the falsomagro's end you are tying and just place what came out back inside.

Finished. Actually, the more you tie, the easier it gets, and after a certain number of loops it looks really solid. In Sicily they say that 'Do not judge the cook by his falsomagro', but perhaps they say this only because people actually do judge cooks by their falsomagros, and want to remind themselves that size is not everything. Who knows?

Peccato! My largest pot is smaller than my smallest falsomagro. What a pity, I wanted to play 'hide the falsomagro' in this pot. Let's bind the falsomagro a little, there, it fits.

Let's bring a little olive oil to high heat, and then roast the falsomagro on every side to flavor the veal cuts.

Dice the onion, carrot and celery stick, then throw in the pot.

Add the spices - cloves, chilies (my way of doing) and a stick of cinammon.

Sauté the vegetables.

Deglaze with a glass of red wine. How much is 'a glass of red wine'? Ah, just look at the bottle. Enough to bathe the bottom of the dish and dissolve any meat bits that stuck to the pot before the wine is vaporized.

Add about 2 cups of tomatoes, either fresh, skinned and stemmed tomatoes, or from a good quality can. Which do you think I used?

Ah, yes a can. Add a little liquid or stock if you have some. The idea is just to have enough liquid so that the sauce does not stick during the long simmer.

To achieve that home-cooked, homey feel, I recommend you boil some potatoes separately, then add them to the pot. This is the way it was served to me in U Cascinari, an amazing slow-food trattoria in Palermo for a most memorable meal. If you go lazy and add the potatoes uncooked, they might not be cooked through when the falsomagro is ready, so better pre-boil them separately before.

Cover the pot and simmer for about an hour. If the sauce is too chunky, you can use a potato ricer or straight out plunging mixer to make it a bit smoother.

Slice, remove the string and serve. How does it compare to a professional falsomagro? Here is one I ate at Ai Cascinari, a delicious backstreet trattoria in Palermo, frequented exclusively by locals. They added green peas in the sugo, but otherwise it's the exact same dish. Well done FX!

This is one amazing dish! It may not look like much, but I served it to an audience of experienced home chefs the other day, and they immediately endorsed it with cries of 'Jesus that's so good' or 'Hell, I'm going to remember this for long, is there any left?' One nearly fainted, and that was before I brought the Tangerine Sorbet for the dessert. The meat stuffing has a strong hit-me-back state due to the cheese, and the palate is pleasantly surprised to find various morsels inside, each with its own distinct and delicate flavor - cheese, onion or mortadella. A real classic!

Trattoria ai cascinari
Via d'Ossuna 43-45
091 1651 9804
Palermo, Sicily, Italy



This is one mighty dish. looks very interesting. something to try out soon.
FX, you say this may not look like much...but I think it looks amazing!  Sure it is not full of vivid colors, but the hard boiled whole egg in the middle makes this so interesting.  What is nice about this recipe is that it looks like even an amateur like me can pull it off with enough patience.

Thanks FX!
  • #3
  • Comment by ND
Blimey, that thing looks like the grandad of all "Beef-Olives". What exactly does "mancanza" mean, please?
  • #4
  • Comment by vaio
I believe it means lack and the expression is lack of respect (una mancanza di rispetto).
FX, great website I’m gathering utensils and ingredients for my first sorbet recipe.
  • #5
  • Answered by fx
Kyle, we are all amateurs when it comes to falsomagros! If you get all the ingredients andd proceed with care, there is no reason why it shouldn't work for you. The colors are quite nice when you cut an egg through the middle!
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
ND, una mancanza di rispetto means a lack of respect, the phrase that precedes a whacking scene in the 'Sopranos'. It's a joke of course, Sicilians are fine people who suffer more than anybody else from the mob.
  • #7
  • Answered by fx
Vaio, for the sorbet all you really need is a freezer and a fork, you can do it without an ice-cream machine!
Mmmmmm naughty food porn at it's best.

I think I will try my hand at this dish this weekend.   It looks heavenly!
Fx, another great dish. I may even try it this weekend.

BTW, I did make the drunken broccoli and it turned out delicious! Thanks for great recipes.
  • #10
  • Comment by GunnCat
That looks wonderful FX. Very nice!
This is right up my husband's alley! He'd LOVE this!
  • #12
  • Comment by Paul Mckenna
Veal in England is as rare as hen's teeth. If I want veal I have to go to Soho to find butchers that supply Italian restaurants.

Any suggestions for a substitute meat ?

Great photos by the way.

  • #13
  • Comment by guillaume
Very very nice recipe .... More of those incredible old fashion recipe ....
>If you need anything about french old fashion recipe , i'll be here .

have a nice "cooking" day
  • #14
  • Comment by constantins
tu t'es surpassé !
  • #15
  • Comment by John
How many people would those quantities feed approximately? Veal is available in the UK but damned pricey...

Looks gorgeous though.
  • #16
  • Comment by Luke
Reading through this recipe makes me wonder whatever the hell happened to that company trying to devise a means to send smells across the Internet, because I'd love to catch a whiff of a pot of your falsomagro cooking. Seriously, that dish looks amazing.

But then again, so do so many dishes originating from working-class mamas of older times. It's like weaving threads of magic, isn't it?
  • #17
  • Answered by fx
Heathen, falsomagro will take even heathens to the heaven!
  • #18
  • Answered by fx
Donald, thanks for coming back and good luck if you try this. Congrats on the broccoli!
  • #19
  • Answered by fx
Traci, good luck if you decide to prepare this for your husband, it's a really wonderful Sunday lunch!
  • #20
  • Answered by fx
Paul, I suppose you could do this with pork or beef if you can get wide but thin cuts. Veal does taste better than hen's teeth though (I think!).
  • #21
  • Answered by fx
Guillaume, merci de ta visite et n'hésite pas si tu as des recettes française hard-core!
  • #22
  • Answered by fx
John, I think you can safely feed 6 people with the proporations I gave. Definitely a gorgeous Sunday meal!
  • #23
  • Comment by K
I wonder if a single layer of pancetta or guanciale instead of mortadella/salami would be too overpowering...

  • #24
  • Answered by fx
K, pancetta should work fine, but guanciale you would need a very thin slicer and many, many slices. Perhaps you could make an Ouroboromagro, shaped like a ring?
Francois, when are you going to get to the more complicated recipes? Like rabbit head stew. Oh wait - you did that one...
  • #26
  • Answered by fx
Claudia, this one looks complicated but isn't. I just finished Blanquette de veau, apparently a one-pot dish and yet I had 5 pots on my stoves, not counting the large dish where the meat marinated in cold water overnight. At the end of the day if you can make a memorable entertainment-grade dish complete with its side dish in only one pot and one hour, it's not really that complicated. I really recommend you try it!
  • #27
  • Comment by anh truong
Tried this dish and it is sooo yummy! the egg in the middle does it for me and everyone ate it up! Thanks for the recipe
  • #28
  • Answered by fx
Anh, I am very pleased to hear you tried the falsomagro and that your guests liked it! Cool trick with the egg indeed!
Just tried this recipe yesterday and received a resounding thumbs up from everyone! In retrospect though, we did think the egg in the centre is wonderfully visually dramatic, but the texture of the egg flavour and the grainyness of the egg yolk overwhelmed the rest of the dish. I may replace the egg with either a garlic mushroom pate, or a thin ribbon of damson/quince jam. Like a sort of fruity or mushroomy version perhaps. Also, we did think that the mortadella really did stand up to the rest of the dish rather impressively, and our rather strong skanky fontina became a rather delicate addition, much to everyone's surprise...
  • #30
  • Answered by fx
May, thanks for trying this an I'm glad this dish worked for you! I think you can definitely customize it to meet your taste, but I agree that the egg really makes for a stunning contrast. Perhaps some fresh cheese with your quince jam frozen in a roll in the middle to reproduce the white-yellow color?
  • #31
  • Comment by Mar
Todo lo que he visto es maravilloso, impresionante las recetas de pastas y el paso a paso, mil felicitaciones!!!
Adoro las pastas y prepararlas.
  • #32
  • Answered by fx
Mar, gracias por su visita y mucha suerte con las pastas!
  • #33
  • Comment by Jenny
Your articles make me laugh, make me hungry, make me want to share (the food, your words, your site).  I'm going to throw a "Jesus That's Good" party in your honor, and soon.  Thanks!
  • #34
  • Answered by fx
Jenny, thanks for your kind words and good luck with your 'FX' falsomagro party!
Wow, you amaze me. I'm very adventurous in the kitchen, and we made many similar dishes in culinary school, but I never have thought to make one at home. Maybe for the holidays with chocolate Kouign amanns  and blood orange sorbet for dessert!!!
  • #36
  • Answered by fx
Laura, you should try the falsomagra, it's a dish Sicilian mamas make every Sunday, it's no big deal and you can't tie it up properly you get as many tries as you want.

I visited your website and absolutely love your cookies, if you could get me a series of behind-the-scenes, from-the-flour-to-the-cookie, high resolution pictures I'd be glad to make an article about A Dozen Eggs.
  • #37
  • Comment by jmz
...finally made my way to this recipe!! I can't wait to try it!  [please fix the link to "Here is one I ate at Ai Cascinari," as it is not working...]

I am only about 50% through the site and have amazed a number of people with your recipes!  My mother in law *loves* the butternut squash soup -- I didn't have curry leaves though so I had to substitute.... the baking [vs boiling] the squash makes all the difference!

Keep up the good work!!   Have you found any good recipes for nova salmon, gravlax, sable, etc??

  • FX's answer→ Thanks I just fixed the link! You really need to find some curry leaves, they can be bought dry or fresh and then frozen. No salmon recipe so far - sorry!

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