In general, I am not a big meatloaf fan. It violates many of my personal food rules, most of them aesthetic and left over from childhood. When my friend told me I had to try this great recipe, I was a bit deflated to see it was a recipe for meatloaf. However, I am a huge fan of cheese, and Lidia’s meatloaf is chock full of it (fresh mozzarella, ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano), and I am a very huge fan of PBS chef Lidia Bastianich. According to my adopted Italian nana Lidia, meatloaf with ricotta is the Marchegiano style of meatloaf.
So, uh, we had a bit of a night last night, and the picture of the final product didn’t turn out so well. Okay, actually that’s a lie. This meatloaf, while incredibly delicious, was so laughably, horrifically ugly and deformed by the time I extracted it from the pan that I knew I couldn’t possibly take a picture that would entice anyone to try this at home. Of course, this morning I am wishing I did take a picture, but at the time I was so burned out from my helluva day that I didn’t want to. Let that be a lesson. Always take the picture; it’s easier to delete than to go back in time. Another lesson is to make this in a 13 x 9 glass pan and not a Le Creuset style enamel coated oval shaped roasting pan like I did.
I do hope you will try this; it is really flavorful, unique, and truly delicious. Sometimes beauty is highly overrated, both in food and in life.
Lidia’s Meatloaf with Ricotta
Polpettone di Manzo con Ricotta
1 cup milk
3 cups day-old bread, cubed, from a loaf of country bread
3 pounds ground beef
3 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
1 pound fresh ricotta , drained, plus more for the sauce if you like
1 bunch scallions , finely chopped
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ pound fresh mozzarella, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 cups Tomato sauce
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour the milk over the bread cubes in a bowl, and let soak for a few minutes, until the bread is saturated. Squeeze the soft bread a handful at a time, pressing out as much milk as you can (discard milk, or give it to a pet), then tear bread into small shreds and toss back into the bowl. Crumble the ground beef into the bowl, and add the eggs, ricotta, scallions, grated cheese, parsley, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Fold and toss everything together, and squeeze the mixture a few times between your fingers to distribute all the ingredients evenly. Scatter the mozzarella cubes on top, and fold and mush them throughout the loaf mix.
Brush a roasting pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Gather the meat mixture in the bowl, turn it into the pan, and shape it into a fat oval loaf. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover the pan with foil and bake 45 minutes.
Remove the foil, and continue to bake until the meatloaf is browned all over and completely cooked through, another 1 hour and 30 minutes or so. Remove the roast from the oven, and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
Heat the tomato sauce to a simmer in a saucepan as the meat rests. Turn off the heat, and, if you like, stir 1/2 cup or so fresh ricotta into the sauce. Cut the loaf crosswise in the pan or on a cutting board, in slices as thick as you like. Serve on warm dinner plates, topped with a spoonful or two of sauce, and pass more sauce at the table (or, for family-style serving, arrange the slices on a warm platter, topped with some of the sauce). To accompany this meatloaf, I love braised broccoli rabe or escarole, served on a separate plate or platter. Note: If you love fresh ricotta, as I do, you can stir some into the tomato sauce, too, just before serving the meatloaf.
Before things turned ugly!
Lidia’s finished product. Photo from Lidia’s website (note the glass pan).