An Heirloom Recipe

Go to printable recipe: Mrs. A’s Spaghetti and Braciole

One of my dearest friends from high school, Paco, has lived in the city of Guadalajara, in the Mexican state of Jalisco, for over two decades.  Even though Guadalajara is the second most populated city in the country, I had never had a chance to visit him or this beautiful city, but last month that changed.  While I was in Culiacan, in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, my sister and I had been working on sorting out some of my mom’s affairs for about a week, and we needed a break.  My brother in-law kindly treated us to a weekend in Guadalajara to visit my newlywed niece and her husband.  I let Paco know that I was going to be in town, and he immediately invited me to his place for lunch.  On the ride there, we were reminiscing about our teenage adventures, trying to catch up on recent events, and our families.  That is when I learned that, sadly, his mother had passed away a couple of weeks ago, coincidentally just a few days apart from my mom’s passing.  Even though I only had the pleasure of Paco’s mom’s company in a few occasions, she touched my heart with her kindness, honesty and no-nonsense personality.  At my friend’s place, I was so happy to see his brother again (“all grown-up”, hehe) and to meet his lovely wife, two teenage children, and their adorable pet.

Of course a Mexican weekend gathering must have lots of good food and beverages.  I tried a “charro negro” (Black Horse Rider), a mix of Tequila, Coca-Cola™ and lime juice; a generous appetizer spread was followed by an amazing mix of traditional Mexican and more cosmopolitan dishes:

Meal at Paco's
A delicious roast beef is surrounded by international sides such as artichoke and spinach bake, baba ghanoush, and pepper jelly cheese, next to a spicy salsa de chile habanero and birotes, the local bread.
Toño’s Sautéed Pepper Appetizer
Lemon merengue pie
Lemon Merengue Pie

During our after-dinner chat, we continued reminiscing about our times as teenagers, and we even discovered that Paco’s wife and I attended the same wedding back in 1979! We also talked about how Paco’s mom was such a great cook, and I mentioned still remembering when she took the time to roast, peel and devein a large batch of poblano peppers for me.  With the help of Paco’s brother, she learned how to digitalize her recipes, many of them heirlooms from her Italian grandmother, putting them all together in a recipe book, a true labour of love.  I was lucky enough to browse through it, and asked Paco and his family to pick a couple they regarded as trademarks that I could share in my blog.  They chose Pastel de galletas y café” (Cookies and Coffee Cake), a layered dessert slightly similar to an Italian tiramisù, but using Maria cookies (as in my previous post), not unlike the Portuguese “Bolo de Bolacha”The second recipe really caught my attention:

recipe 1 Mrs A.jpg

I thought this dish was so unique!  It had the definite Italian roots of spaghetti (pasta noodles) and braciole (plural of braciola, a very thin cut of meat often used to make stuffed rolls, also called beef involtini); however, the tomato sauce had a beautiful collection of flavours, from herbs and aromatics, to the distinctive smokiness of Mexican ancho peppers.  This recipe also called for a thin layer of pork meat, and the stuffing was like a musical composition: rich, varied in tones and intensities, and just a perfect complement to the rest of the ingredients.

Mrs. A’s Spaghetti and Braciole

El Spaghetti con Braccioles de la Sra. A

Printable recipe: Mrs. A’s Spaghetti and Braciole


3/4 lb (approx. 375 g) thin beef steak
3/4 lb (approx. 375 g) pork loin, open into thin butterfly steaks
6 slices bacon
1/3 cup raisins
1 cup mozzarella cheese; sliced thinly or shredded
1 cup parsley; chopped (I did not have enough, so I used a mix of parsley and cilantro)
4 ancho peppers; wiped clean with a cloth, stems and seeds removed
4 tomatoes
3 tbsp oil, such as olive
Boiling water; as needed
1/2 onion; peeled and cut into large chunks
2 cloves garlic; peeled and sliced in half
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 stick cinnamon (or 1/2 tsp ground)
Pinch cloves; ground
1/2 tsp dry oregano; crumbled
1/2 tsp dry marjoram; crumbled
1/2 tsp dry thyme; crumbled
3 leaves dry bay
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt plus more salt or chicken or beef bouillon, to taste
To serve: Spaghetti, cooked al dente and freshly grated Parmesan cheese

I decided to pre-fry the bacon slices, to remove some of the fat (photo below, left), and for flavour; I did not want them to get crispy or dry, so I just left them pliable, as seen at the top of the photo below, right, compared to crispy slices at the bottom:

Let drain on paper towels; reserve.  Roast cleaned peppers on a dry skillet (photo below, left) just until fragrant; do not burn.  Transfer to a pot of boiling water (photo below, centre) and let soak until soft.  On the dry skillet, roast tomatoes (photo below, right):

Remove from heat, remove stem end and reserve.  Set up bacon slices, raisins, parsley (or cilantro) and cheese next to a cookie sheet or working surface with a sheet of parchment paper.  Place thin steak on top, flattening to form a rectangle.  I had four pieces of meat, so I slightly overlapped the edges so they would form a single piece:

006 flaten steak on a cookie tray and set up stuffing ingredients.jpg

Place thin pork on top of beef.  I had four pieces, not a whole pork loin, so again, I overlapped the edges:

007 flaten pork loin on top.jpg

Arrange cheese, parsley/cilantro, and raisins on top, keeping about one inch away from the edges:

008 arrange cheese, parsley and cilantro and raisins on top

Finish with the bacon slices, arranged crosswise:

009 arrange bacon strips crosswise

Roll, starting at the shorter edge, helping the meat stay together by pressing with the parchment paper:

010 roll over with the help of parchment paper.jpg

Finish rolling, placing the seam facing down, and tucking the ends of the meat to cover the filling.  Tie with kitchen twine, first around the log (photo below, left), and then a couple of times lengthwise (photo below, right):

In a large pot, warm up 2 tbsp. of the oil over medium heat; fry meat roll, rolling frequently to sear all around (photo below, left); once browned, add enough boiling water to cover about half the roll (photo below, right):

Bring to a boil, and skim white foam with a spoon (photo below, left); reduce to a simmer, and add salt (photo below, right):

Cover and let simmer gently.  Meanwhile, arrange onion, garlic, bay leaves, and spices, as well as salt (or beef bouillon, as pictured below):

017 aromatics and spices.jpg

Blend all of the above with the reserved tomatoes, hydrated ancho peppers and a little of the soaking water from the peppers.  In a saucepan, heat up the rest of the oil, then pour the mixture from the blender (photo below, left); add sugar, stirring constantly until it dissolves (photo below, right):

Allow sauce to simmer until meat is fully cooked.  My roll was done in about 1 1/2 hours:

020 fully cooked roll in broth

Transfer roll onto a cutting board, and let rest, loosely covered with foil or parchment paper, for 10 minutes.  The broth may be cooled, strained and kept in the fridge for another use, for example, a pot of my Leek and Potato Soup (click here for recipe.)  Remove twine from the meat:

021 let rest then remove twine.jpg

Slice very carefully with a good carving knife, each section about 3/4 inch in thickness:


Wow, look at the symphony of pretty colours and patterns in the stuffing:

022 z slices so beautiful.jpg

Mrs. A’s recipe says to add the slices to the sauce and cook for a few minutes, then add the cooked spaghetti and cover with sauce as well before serving.  I took the liberty of skipping part of this step and arrange the slices on a pretty serving plate, with the sauce on the side (as pictured at the top of the post) to show off the beautiful cross section of the roll.  To plate, I did dunk the pasta in the sauce left in the saucepan, then served the slices of the braciola with more sauce on top and a side of spaghetti with an “abundant sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese” as directed by Mrs. A:

024 serve with spaghetti.jpg

I hardly have words to describe how flavourful and delicious this dish was.  I thought that maybe some of the ingredients would be redundant, or get masked by the stronger flavours, but on the contrary, every item could be tasted, and contributed to the well rounded flavours of the dish.  My husband really liked it, classifying it as “a keeper to add to our regular menu rotation” which means it has become an instant favourite.

I will go back to the Pastel de galletas y café recipe in more detail, and for sure will share stories and recipes from the rest of my very special weekend in Guadalajara in the New Year, but I really wanted to feature this beautiful dish on time as a suggestion for a main course for a delicious New Year’s Eve menu.

I must thank my hosts for all their attentions, the wonderful memories (some old, and some new from that evening) and for sharing their family recipes; I am looking forward to seeing them again, hopefully soon!

Friends Guadalajara 2019
Me with Paco, Jeannette and “Galleta” (Cookie)

This post is respectfully dedicated in memory of Mrs. A, my dear friend Paco’s mother

“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a while, but their hearts forever” –

Author Unknown.

I am bringing this recipe to Thursday Favourite Things #420 with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Marilyn @ Marilyn’s Treats, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode. UPDATE: Thank you both to Marilyn and Bev for choosing this recipe amongst their TFT #421 features.

I am joining Full Plate Thursday #465 withMiz Helen @ Miz Helen’s Country Cottage.

I am sharing this recipe at Fiesta Friday #309 with Angie @ Fiesta Friday, this week co-hosting with Antonia @

20 thoughts on “An Heirloom Recipe

  1. Congratulations! Your post was my feature pick at #ThursdayFavoriteThings this week. Visit me at on thursday morning to see your feature! All hosts choose their own features from the comments left on their blog so be sure to return to my blog to see your feature. I invite you to leave more links to be shared and commented upon. Please don’t forget to add your link numbers or post title so we can be sure to visit!


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