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Having recently bought the Frankies Spuntino Cookbook I want to have a go at making braciola. The recipe calls for pork steaks to be stuffed with pecorino romano and provolone.

However, in the UK provolone is hard to come by outside of Italian delis, and Italian delis are relatively rare. I understand that it's similar to mozzarella but drier.

So, what is a good substitute for provolone? Is it usually used for flavour or for its melting texture?

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3 Answers 3

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There are two main types of provolone: piccante (sharp) and dolce (sweet). Most braciola recipes I've seen call for the sharp version. Sharp provolone tastes very similar to cheddar, which I assume is abundant in the UK. The issue is that "real" cheddar is a hard cheese and provolone is only semi-hard. Here in the US, we have a softer version of sharp cheddar-style cheese that is made in Wisconsin. If a similar semi-hard sharp cheddar variant is available in the UK, I would recommend that.

It should also be noted that the term "braciola" (or sometimes "braciole") means a lot of different things to different people. To most Americans, likely including the author of your book, it takes on the Sicilian meaning of an involtino. Sometimes the meat will be filled with a soft cheese mixture like mozzarella mixed with grated pecorino romano. However, if the recipe calls for a harder cheese like provolone, it is likely referring to a variant that is very popular in the US in which the provolone is cut into thin slices (usually using a deli slicer) and layered on the meat before the meat is rolled. Therefore, any substitute for the provolone should ideally be thinly sliced.

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The recipe is for involtino braciola, calling for aged provolone, which i assime is 'sharp' as you suggest. As it happens I am near an Italian deli at the moment, I will try and find some provolone and see how cheddar like it is. Generally the more mature the cheddar here, the harder and more crumbly it is, so I'm thinking a medium cheddar would give the right texture and flavour. –  ElendilTheTall Oct 21 '12 at 6:21
    
I managed to find some Provolone and I would say it is closest to a medium/mature cheddar. –  ElendilTheTall Oct 26 '12 at 17:44
    
Aged provolone is very sharp and dry, I would use a quite mature and dry cheddar. –  nico Nov 1 '12 at 8:55
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When limited to supermarket cheeses, I would try 1/3 mozzarella and 2/3 muenster. Braciole is served hot, so mozzarella would have lovely Italian flavor but would liquify too much, while muenster would have the right texture. The pork would not have to cook as long as beef, but you run the risk of cheese seeping out into the sauce rather than remaining as an intact layer of the meat roll.

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Definitely not mozzarella. Provolone, especially aged one is a very tasty cheese and the texture is completely different from mozzarella. That said, mozzarella would also be very good in the dish, it just won't give the same type of result. –  nico Nov 1 '12 at 8:56
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If the only issue were flavor, an aged provolone takes on a similar characteristic of other italian hard cheeses such as parmesean, and so I'd have replaced the provolone with a dry mozerella augmented with extra parmesean, or pecorino romano. (and at least in the U.S., dry mozerella is what tends to be sold, not the fresh stuff)

As we're dealing with melting characteristics as well, as Kathi's pointed out, mozerella's just going to melt wrong. I'd likely go with fontina, a young asiago, or manchego (a young one, not manchego viejo).

To emulate a younger provolone, use less of the aged cheese and use a better melter, like fontina, monterey jack or even a mild swiss.

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