• Italian Meat Loaf

    Italian meat loaf

    Homely and immensely satisfying, there’s nothing quite as comforting as meatloaf.

    Served hot with vegetables, cold as part of a salad or sliced thinly in sandwiches, meatloaf is a star.
    Aussies are used to cooking their meatloaves in a tin and turning them out. The Italians cook them ‘free form’ on top of the stove for the simple reason that Mama’s kitchen often did not have an oven. Dishes that needed to be cooked in an oven went down to the baker once the day’s bread was taken out. This is also true of French cooking; dishes that have the name “boulangere” (baker) give the clue.
    The advantage in cooking a free form meatloaf is that the sauce becomes an integral part of the dish. Keeping the loaf together is dependent on three things –
    • bread dissolved in warm milk and then mixed with a beaten egg – this is the glue that helps bind the loaf
    • mixing and kneading the ingredients well with your hand – this works far better than any implement
    • compacting the shape well when forming the loaf – first rolled into a tight ball and then gently rolled into a fat salami shape.
    A deep and large fry pan (with lid) is the ideal vessel in which to cook the meatloaf – it will take just on an hour.

    Match with a medium bodied Italian Valpolicella 2005 Zenato or even a richly flavoured pinot like new release 2006 Chartley Estate Black Crow Pinot.

    The recipe

    Italian meat loaf
    800g beef topside, minced
    25g dried Italian porcini mushrooms, soaked in half cup warm water for 20 minutes
    1 small onion, very finely chopped – as fine as you can
    1 large clove garlic, very finely chopped
    100g sliced pancetta, chopped
    60g freshly grated Parmesan or Grana
    1-2 tsp salt, plenty of black pepper
    half nutmeg, grated (optional but very good)
    1 thick slice Italian style bread (15cm x 10cm), trimmed of crust
    2 tbsp milk
    1 egg
    dry breadcrumbs
    small knob of butter and 1 tbsp olive oil for sealing the loaf
    1 glass white wine
    1×400g tin Italian tomatoes, diced
    Drain the porcini from the soaking liquid but keep the liquid. Strain the liquid through paper towel or a coffee filter to remove any grit. Chop the porcini roughly.
    Place the beef mince in a large bowl. Add the onion, pancetta, garlic, parmesan, salt, pepper and half the porcini mushrooms (the rest will be used for the sauce). Mix everything well together with a fork, breaking up the mince as you go.
    Break the bread into pieces and place in a small saucepan with the milk. Gently warm and mash the bread into the milk until it is uniform. Take from the heat, cool and beat in the egg with a fork. Pour the bread/milk/egg mixture into the beef and with your hand mix everything very well together. Shape the beef into a compact ball and then roll the mixture into a large salami shape. Gently roll the meatloaf in dry breadcrumbs.
    In a large saucepan heat the butter and oil until foaming. Add the meatloaf and brown on all sides, being careful not to break up the loaf. Add the rest of the porcini mushrooms to the pan and sauté briefly. Add the glass white wine and let bubble away for a few minutes. Add the diced tomatoes. Turn down the heat to a very low simmer, place on a lid and cook the loaf for 30 minutes, turn and cook for a further 30 minutes, this time with the lid askew. Take the loaf from the pan and let rest for a few minutes. If the sauce is a bit thin boil it down for a few minutes. Check for seasoning.
    To serve: Spoon some of the sauce onto a large serving platter. Slice the loaf and place on the platter. Pour the rest of the sauce over and around the loaf. Serve with green beans and oven-roasted potatoes.