We always hesitate to call this dish “meatloaf ” at our cooking school in Italy because of the possible negative connotations of the word. Rest assured - this dish is colourful, moist, flavoursome and very comforting.
For the decoration inside
1 boiled carrot, sliced lengthways in 4 pieces
1 lightly boiled courgette (zucchini), sliced lengthways in 4 pieces
1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs
For the polpettone itself
500g (1 lb) very lean, quality ground beef (or if you don't mind extra fat, replace a third of this with good sausage meat)
Fifth to half a nutmeg, grated (adjust quantity to taste)
1 cup parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
100 g (1/4 lb) Parmesan cheese
100 g (1/4 lb) ricotta cheese
2 boiled, mashed medium potatoes
3 heaped tablespoons flour
50 g (1 cup) breadcrumbs to coat
1 glass white wine (when it is in the oven)
2-3 cups vegetable stock (if necessary - when it is in the oven)
For the sauce
1 kg (2 lb) ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
2 cloves garlic
Bunch basil (20 leaves)
Mix the ingredients for the polpettone very well, using a fork. (Not the breadcrumbs, wine or stock).
Roll/flatten out into a dinner plate size shape.
Place the vegetables on the rolled mixture.
Roll up into a “Yuletide log” shape. Try to seal the seams.
The loaf should be compact but not too compact...
Cover with breadcrumbs.
Roll the meatloaf in the breadcrumbs.
Place in an oiled glass oven dish with the seam down (so that it doesn't open up while cooking).
Cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes on 200°C until well browned.
Add the glass of white wine, baste well and return to the oven. *
Meanwhile, make a tomato sauce by cooking the tomatoes slowly with olive oil and garlic, adding basil at the end. Save some leaves for decoration.
If you like, press the garlic through a garlic press back into the sauce. If not, discard.
Cook the meatloaf for an additional few (around 10) minutes in the sauce. Decorate with basil leaves.
You can serve this dish with or without the tomato sauce, as you wish. Without the sauce, it makes great picnic food, served at room temperature.
* If you make it without the sauce, you may need to add a cup or two of stock to keep it form going dry (once the wine has evaporated). This depends on how much water comes out of your ricotta, meat etc!