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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chicken Thigh Roll-ups in Tomato Sauce

On a previous post for Tomato Meat Sauce I included a recipe for beef or veal roll-ups. These are also known as involtini or braciole and are very traditional in Italian cuisine.

You can be sure that every Italian cook boasts their interpretation of this recipe to be the best one of all.

In my mother's day meat was not as affordable as it is today and she tells me that it was a real treat to see braciole in the traditional Sunday pot of sauce.

She used chopped garlic and pancetta in her recipe. I replaced the pancetta with regular or smoked ham and omitted the garlic altogether mainly because it made them more appealing to my children.

I tried making this recipe with chicken breast but they tended to become rather dry and stringy. I did however enjoy the taste they gave to the tomato sauce so I tried using boneless chicken thighs instead hoping for better results.

The thighs were very moist, tender and tastier than breast meat for sure. Using smoked meat as part of the stuffing gives the sauce a mild smoky flavour which is a little different than the usual but well received by all at the Sunday dinner table..

As far as I know using chicken thighs is not part of a traditional recipe that has been around for years. However, I am curious to find out if this version of roll-ups have made their way into pots of sauce other than mine.

If not, you first heard of it here and I may have started a new tradition!

Chicken Thigh Roll-ups

I’m not posting exact amounts as you can make as many as you want and season them to taste. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words so I included a few therefore saving me a multitude of words.

boneless chicken thighs
black forest ham, smoked turkey or smoked chicken (preferably shaved)
grated cheese such as Parmigiano or Crotonese
Italian parsley (chopped)
  1. Unroll and spread chicken thighs on a piece of wax or parchment paper (you will be stuffing the inside of the thigh)
  2. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Place smoked meat, grated cheese and parsley on the thigh and roll up like a jelly roll.
  4. Roll meat in a piece of plastic wrap
  5. Take both ends of the plastic wrap and in a forward motion spin until meat roll takes on a cylindrical shape.
  6. Tuck the ends of the plastic wrap under the roll and secure with 3 toothpicks (you will be pushing the toothpicks right through the plastic wrap)
  7. It is important that these are frozen solid at this point. (cook from the frozen state to ensure that they don’t unroll.)
  8. Make your sauce as in the Meat Sauce recipe on the previous post and bring it up to a boil.
  9. Remove plastic wrap from rolls (do not remove toothpicks) and add to the sauce.
  10. When the sauce comes up to a boil again lower heat to medium and cook gently for about 45 minutes.
  11. Remove toothpicks before serving.
  12. Serve sauce on your favourite pasta.

Notes, Tips and Suggestions
  • It may seem like it takes a lot of initial preparation for this recipe but the reward will come the day you just have to unwrap and add them to a pot of simmering tomato sauce.
  • For something different, try using a small amount of raw meatball mixture as the filling in the roll-ups. A combination of ground veal and pork or veal and chicken seasoned just as you would for meatballs makes a tasty filling.
  • Do not use previously frozen chicken thighs as it is not safe to refreeze the raw meat.


  1. sounds like another good one, have to try this one for sure, like the idea of freezing so are ready when you are in a rush but want a nice meal.

  2. longing for a cream puff (aka your daughter)February 25, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    Do these serve well with cream puffs?

  3. Hi the daughter - check out Feb. 22/09 on this blog, there is a great recipe for cream puffs and are really quite easy to make - lol -

  4. Believe me, I didn't call for the reinforcements but it's good to know that there's someone out there looking out for me!
    Thank goodness for Blog Police!!

  5. the defeated daughterFebruary 27, 2012 at 5:13 AM

    I can resist everything except temptation.
    - Oscar Wilde

  6. Using smoked meat is not new for me. Actually I don't use smoked meat when I make chicken sauce.I use instead a whole kippur. For those that don't know a kippur is a smoked herring. In case you use this recipe, make sure that the kippur is whole, complete with head, eyes bones and tail.Set your stove top burner to high. In a large saucepan (if your kippur is a small one then use a small saucepan as long as it is large enough to hold the kippur without bending it)drop in the kippur and cover it with 2 cups of boiling water. Remove the cups and keep the water bubbly. Sprinkle over the liquid 2 tbs of BISTO and 1/3 cup of chicken soup powder. Stir vigorously. Add a handful of chicken livers,1 can of diced Italian tomatoes and pour over it 1/2 a bottle of BRIO (any size). Reduce liquid until you have just the right quantity in the saucepan for yor requirements. Remove the kippur and dispose of it. Make sure that there are no bones in the sauce. If you find that difficult then next time you may like to use pastrami instead of the kippur.

  7. Hello Cy,
    Thanks for commenting.
    Sounds like a very interesting recipe, hope to try it sometime!

  8. Hi Domenica,
    I absolutely love your style, your recipes and your photographs. You have so much talent. It would be wonderful if you were to put your collection into book form and publish it.

    I was going to send you a kippur but the fishmonger at Sobeys said that they are only available in September and then only yom per customer.

    My very best wishes to a very talented lady......Cy.

  9. Hello Cy,
    Thank you for your kind thoughts!
    I'm certainly looking forward to "meeting" my first kippur!!