Polpettone: Italian Stuffed Meatloaf

April 25th, 2010  |  Published in All, Carrots, Garlic, Honorable Herbs, Meats and Sausages, Most Popular, Onion, Parsley, Succulent Spices  |  8 Comments

I daydream a lot about cooking during the week, especially when I’m on the train. Its rhythmic click-clack, the morning fog, and a warm cup of coffee are just the right combination for daydreaming about things I want to cook. During the week not so many of those dreams become reality, but during the weekend I break out of my daydreams and actually head into the kitchen.

Last week Elizabeth David’s book Italian Cooking kept me company on my train rides to and from work. Ms. David is one of my favorite food writers of all time. Eloquent, elegant, humble, and humorous are all words I would use to describe her writings. Her recipes are less like instructions and more like suggestions. I’ve made quite a few things from her various cookbooks over the years, and I find they turn out best not when you follow her words and ingredient lists exactly, but rather when you use it as a starting point and utilize your own knowledge and creativity to complete the dish.

Her Polpettone recipe (Italian meatloaf stuffed with hard boiled eggs and cheese) is no different. I have an odd love of loaves of meat, and typically turn to Paul Prudhomme’s cajun meatloaf whenever the craving strikes. Moist, spicy, and with a wonderful texture, I am not sure it can be improved upon (except by using rolled oats rather than breadcrumbs — a personal preference that results in a more tender meatloaf). So, when I decided to make Ms. David’s Italian meatloaf, I fused her suggestions with Prudhomme’s technique, and added spices and other ingredients as I saw fit. The result? Fantastic! Don’t get me wrong, I am not abandoning my beloved cajun meatloaf, but this Italian version is different enough that I can definitely make space for both in my repertoire.

Polpettone: Italian Stuffed Meatloaf
Inspired by Elizabeth David

olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
1/2 t. white pepper
1 t. dried sage
1 t. dried marjoram
1 t. dried oregano
1/4 c. catsup
1/2 c. milk
1/3 c. chopped parsley

4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 c. rolled oats
2/3 c. bread crumbs or stuffing mix
1 1/2 lbs ground beef (15% fat or higher is best)
1/2 lb ground pork

2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
2 oz. ham, minced
3 oz. grated provolone

Preheat oven to 350.

Prepare vegetable mixture:
Heat about 2 T. olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add onions and saute until softened.  Add the carrot, saute for another minute, then add the garlic and red bell pepper.  Saute the mixture until vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes longer.  Add salt, black pepper, white pepper, sage, marjoram, and oregano, mix well, and saute another minute or two.  Add catsup and milk, mix well, and cook for about 3-4 minutes until mixture starts sticking to the pan.  Remove from heat, fold in the chopped parsley, and set aside to cool.

Prepare meat mixture:
Mix the raw eggs, oats, bread crumbs, beef, and pork in a large bowl.  Using your hands, mix until everything is well amalgamated.  Add the cooled vegetable mixture, and combine well with your hands.  Divide the mixture into two roughly equal parts.

Shape the loaf:
In a 9×13 glass pan shape half the meat mixture into a flat loaf about 6 inches wide, 12 inches long, and about an inch high.  Sprinkle the hard boiled eggs, ham, and provolone evenly over the meatloaf, leaving about a 1/2 -1 inch border at the sides.  Now working with the other half of the meat mixture, take small handfuls, flatten it between your hands, and place atop egg mixture, creating ‘patches’  of meat to enclose the filling.  Take care to enclose the sides with meat mixture so no eggs or cheese will leak out.  Once you’ve used up all the meat mixture, smooth with your hands to make a compact, neat loaf.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, then raise heat to 425 and continue to bake until meatloaf is done, about 35 minutes longer.  Allow to stand for 10 minutes after removing from oven.  Slice into 1-2 inch pieces, and enjoy!  Serve on its own or with some spicy tomato sauce alongside.

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