The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is . . . Tough Meat Loaf! (Ciao Italia Blog Exclusive!)

April 2, 2009

Everyone is talking about comfort foods these days. Food magazines are plastered with recipes for casseroles, stews, and soups. We feel uneasy about the future of the economy, so we cut spending, make our food dollars go farther, and are not even thinking about a vacation this year. Strangely, all this anxiety makes me think of one thing . . . meat loaf.

Meat loaf is one of those dishes you either love or hate. For my husband Guy it conjures up eating in a greasy spoon diner. It’s not for him.

For me it means cold meat loaf sandwiches with grainy mustard. Delicious!

Now making a meat loaf may sound pretty simple and it can be, but there are rules for turning out a succulent, juicy meatloaf that I want to share with you.

At in my mom’s kitchen we called meat loaf polpettone, which means “meat roll” or “meat ball.” Here are somethings to keep in mind when trying to produce a juicy, delicious meat loaf for your dinner table:

Mom’s Moist Meat Loaf
Serves 8

Preheat oven to 350F

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs, crust removed
1/3 cup white wine
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large carrot shredded
1 red sweet onion minced
1 cup diced button mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons minced parsley
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into bits
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Grinding coarse black pepper
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
2 baking potatoes, peeled and shredded

Place the bread crumbs in a large bowl and pour the wine over them. Stir with a spoon to moisten. Set bowl aside.

Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a sauté pan. Add carrot and onion and cook just until onion softens, about 4 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and cook 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Set aside to cool.

Add the parsley, cheese, salt, and pepper to the bowl with the bread crumbs and mix with a fork. Stir in the eggs, and add salt and pepper.

Add the beef and pork and with wet hands and combine everything quickly.

Transfer the meat loaf mixture to a lightly oiled, rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and shape it into a flat 10 x 5 loaf (see photo to the right for what it looks like coming out of my oven).

Toss the potatoes with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pat the potatoes evenly on top of the meat loaf.

Bake until the internal temperature of the meat loaf reaches 155-160F on an instant read thermometer. Usually takes about an hour, depending on how thick you made the loaf. The potatoes should look golden brown and crispy.

Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing crosswise. Don’t pass the ketchup, it would be un-Italian!

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