Beef Roulades with Walnut Parsley Pesto

Please welcome Hank Shaw as he shares a holiday favorite, flank steak roulades with pesto and bacon. ~Elise

Roulades, pinwheels, whatever you call them, this is a classic party dish. When I was a boy, my mum used to make these for our Christmas Eve smorgasbord, where they took their place alongside Swedish meatballs and huge plates of cold cuts, cheeses, pickles and such. Some years she’d serve them with Hollandaise sauce, which made them very, very rich even for a little kid.

Mum’s version didn’t use pesto. Her filling was just parsley and garlic salt. But with those two ingredients already in the mix, it’s only a step away from a full-fledged pesto—especially the classic winter pesto of parsley and walnuts.

This is not mum’s exact recipe, but it comes close: Super tender meat, smoky, fatty bacon and an intense hit of parsley in the center. Even though I last ate these close to 30 years ago, I can still remember that parsley. It was so “adult” when I was a kid. My addition of the pesto, with the walnuts and cheese, makes my version as rich as mum’s, only without the Hollandaise. I do like a squeeze of lemon on the roulade right at the table.

Making these roulades isn’t hard, but it requires a little dexterity to secure the roulade with the kitchen twine. Once the roulade is tied, however, it’s pretty sturdy.

Don’t skimp on the tenderizing process at the beginning of this recipe. Flank steak can be very chewy, so you will want to pound it well, and a meat mallet’s tenderizing side is a good finishing step. If you don’t have a meat mallet, use the point of a sharp knife to pierce the meat all over.

Beef Roulades with Walnut Parsley Pesto Recipe

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6.

You can use prosciutto instead of the bacon (no need to cook, it's already cured), or skip it all together and just do a roll-up with the pesto of your choice.

Ingredients

Pesto:

  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup shelled walnuts, about 1 3/4 ounces
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Flank steak roulade:

  • 1/2 pound thin-cut bacon
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds flank steak
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Lemon wedges to serve

Method

1 Start by making the pesto. Put the parsley, cheese, garlic, salt and walnuts into a food processor. Pulse to combine. Turn the machine on again and slowly pour in the olive oil, just to combine. Reserve.

2 Cook the bacon in a large pan — you will be searing the roulade in this later, so it needs to be wide — over medium-low heat until it is about half-cooked. You want it cooked, but still limp. Do not crisp it up or it will break when you try to wrap it inside the roulade. When the bacon is ready, set it aside on paper towels.

3 Place heavy duty plastic wrap (or two layers of plastic wrap) on a large work surface and place the flank steak on it. Cover with more plastic wrap. Using a rubber mallet, the flat side of a meat mallet or an empty wine bottle, pound the flank steak until it is 1/2 inch thick or thinner. Flip the meat from time to time to pound everything evenly. Once the meat is as thin as you want it, if you have a meat mallet with a tenderizing side (the pointy side), remove the plastic wrap and pound this on both sides for a minute or two. If you don't have a meat mallet, you can skip this step.

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4 Look at your steak: You will be rolling it up with the grain of the meat facing side to side. You do this because when you slice it later, the beef will be more tender when you cut across the grain. Arrange the meat until the grain faces side to side, and if it is not squarish or rectangular, cut it to fit. Sprinkle on some salt and black pepper.

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5 Spread a thin layer of pesto on the meat, leaving about 1/2 inch free on all sides of the meat. Lay down the bacon against the grain of the beef. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

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6 Carefully roll  the roulade up tightly, as you would a carpet. If you want, cut off any bacon that is extending beyond the steak. Tie off the meat with 6 to 8 lengths of string, each about an inch or so apart. Sear the tied roulade in the pan with the bacon fat. You want to quickly brown the surface, not cook the inside of the roulade.

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7 Put the roulade in a roasting pan on a rack, seam side down. If you don't have a rack, improvise with celery stalks. Roast this for 20-25 minutes, or until the interior of the meat is 130°F. (Note that the ends of the roulade will be far hotter than the center — so always test the temperature from the center of the roulade.)

8 Remove the meat from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Slice the roulade so each serving is wrapped in string. You can either let everyone cut their own string at the table, or cut it yourself and secure the roulades with toothpicks if you want. Serve with lemon wedges to add a little tartness to the dish.

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Links:

Spinach and Parmesan Stuffed Flank Steak, from Dinners for a Year and Beyond
Flank Steak Roulade, from the Food Addicts
German Beef Rouladen, from Choosy Beggars

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31 Comments

  1. emilyadi

    Wow, this looks fantastic! Can’t wait to try it.

  2. Bj Collins

    Elise! Again, you are the BOMB!! I’m SO making this Christmas Eve. I’m so into mashed white sweet potatoes this fall and I can picture them with the roulade and maybe some Brussels sprouts, too. I envy your culinary imagination. :) Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  3. Jacqueline

    The instant I saw the photo, I exclaimed out loud: OH. MY. GOD. I cannot wait to make these. Thank you!

  4. NancyM

    Not that I’m not following the recipe to a “T”, but what does one do if they opt for the prosciutto instead of the bacon as far as searing the flank steak goes? EVOO? I always have a stash of bacon fat in the freezer but not everyone does.

  5. Jayne

    This is beeeyootiful! Your mom is an amazing cook, isn’t she? This will definitely look great on a serving platter with some roasted potatoes and a pasta salad.

  6. Jen Petree

    Can you roll the meat a let it sit for 24 hours before cooking? I am looking for a make ahead dish for Xmas day.

    • Hank Shaw

      I don’t see why not, although the pesto might get a little stale. You certainly can do it in the morning before you cook it for dinner.

  7. Kathleen

    I buy this from our local grocery and they charge and arm and a leg for one lousy pinwheel. That’s the last time for me.
    I did not know it could be this easy. Thank you and Merry Christmas Happy Hannukah and Deck the Halls.

  8. Christian Gehman

    A small amount of panko crumbs in the pesto might help stabilize the olive oil.

  9. Espahan

    That does it! I making this to add to my daughter’s Christmas Eve celebration at her home. I used to make something like this years ago but had since forgotten all about it. Thank you Elise, for reminding me of this great dish and your modern interpretations of old recipes.

  10. Christine

    Could I slice this thin for a buffet-style dish, or is it more of a everyone-sit-down dinner party entree?

    • Hank Shaw

      The trick with slicing it thin is to keep each roulade intact. You’ll need a very sharp knife to cut cleanly, and I would keep the roulades together with toothpicks. ~Hank

  11. gloria

    look delicious!

  12. Kelly Senyei

    Wow! This is absolutely stunning, Elise, and would be perfect for my next football party. Happy holidays!

  13. Rachel in Oregon

    I made this last night for a small friend-family Christmas gathering. It was amazing! So easy and delicious. Everyone thinks I am a genius (and rightly so)! Thanks so much Hank and Elise!

  14. Espahan

    I made this 3 days ago and froze it to prepare Christmas day at my daughter’s home 200 miles away. It was perfect. Thanks for another fab recipe.

  15. RD

    Our son is a major red meat carnivore so I made this for him last Saturday night as we were taking him back to school at UC Davis the next day. We all loved it. It would be a nice dish for company provided they are not vegetarians. I had to cook it about 10m longer than the recipe called for but it came out a perfect medium-rare. Served it with creamy polenta and salad.

    I made the full separate Walnut Pesto recipe and used half of it for this dish. My wife and I used the rest of it over pasta a couple of days later. Delicious!

  16. Pieter

    I made the rcipe and it was delicious! However I’m concerned about the temperature of 130. Isn’t that too low in terms of killing any potential e-coli bacteria?

    • Elise

      Hi Pieter – e-coli is an issue with ground meat, because of contamination at the processing plant. It is not an issue with whole cuts of meat such as the flank steak used in this recipe.

  17. Gina Moore

    Aloha!
    I have the same concern. What is the Oven Temperature? Am setting it at 350 and see what happens.

  18. Lise

    Looks fantastic! What would you serve as a side dish with this?

  19. vito

    quale taglio di carne usi ??? ciao

  20. Joe O'R

    Beautiful!!! This was my first time having flank steak and it won’t be last…..

  21. Page

    Looks delicious! What would you serve as a side with this?

  22. Maxia Sev

    Is it possible to replace the parsley pesto for a basil one? I couldn’t find any parsley neither on the market or the supermarket today. :( Thank you!

  23. Novella

    This was such an amazing dish! Absolutely loved it!! Will be making again.

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