Meatloaf (Polpettone)

So says The Chronicle’s Paolo Lucchesi, meatloaf along with pickles will be hot in 2012. Maybe I’m ahead of the curve on the pickle front. Try my pickled vinegar peppers and my giardiniera (pickled vegetables) that I posted late last year.

My Mom’s meatloaf or polpettone (big meatball in Italian) is still a favorite. This is an “all in one dish” meal with about 15 minutes of prep time and 60 minutes in the oven. The meatloaf recipe is a variation of my meatball recipe so you can watch the Sunday Gravy episode (about 8.5 minutes into the video) to get a sense of how I put the meatloaf mixture together. Just form the meatloaf and brush the top of the meatloaf with some EVOO to help form a nice crust on the top.

Later on we modified my Mom’s meatloaf. We topped it with tomato sauce and laid bacon on top. Bacon makes everything better, right? I stayed pure with this one but I tell you how to make the meatloaf with sauce and bacon in the recipe.

My Mom surrounded her meatloaf with potato, onion, celery and carrot. I love that vegetable combination but I changed it up here. I’ve roasted flat cippolini onions, potatoes and butternut squash with this polpettone. You can add any vegetables you like to the roasting pan. Have it your way. Just make sure you have some meatloaf and vegetables left over. It’s great heated up the next day and it makes a great sandwich too. Don’t tell anybody but sometimes I like a little ketchup with this dish.

Italian Meatloaf (Polpettone)


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, veal and pork (1/2 pound of each)
  • 1 cup rehydrated stale bread
  • 1/4 cup pecorino cheese, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons Italian flat parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce (optional)
  • 3 slices bacon or pancetta (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Put some stale bread in a bowl and cover with water or milk. When it is soft squish in your hands to remove all the liquid. The bread should be quite dry.
  3. Put the egg in a large bowl and scramble it.
  4. Add the ground meat, bread, pecorino, parsley and sea salt and black pepper to taste. Mix well. I use my hands to combine all of the ingredients well.
  5. Form the meat mixture into an oblong loaf and place the meatloaf in a baking dish.
  6. Cut up your favorite vegetables and put them in a bowl. Add the EVOO, oregano and sea salt and black pepper to taste, Coat the vegetables well.
  7. Scatter the vegetables around the perimeter of the meatloaf and sprinkle everything with grated pecorino.
  8. (Optional) Top the meatloaf evenly with the tomato sauce. (You can use canned tomato sauce or a tomato passato but I like to make my own sauce. Lightly toast some smashed garlic in a pan with EVOO then add the canned tomato sauce, a few basil leaves and stir well as you heat the sauce for a few minutes. Set aside to cool. Top the meatloaf evenly with the sauce.
  9. (Optional) Lay the bacon slices on top of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with pecorino. You can stop here or add the bacon on top of the sauced meatloaf.
  10. Roast the meatloaf in the oven for 25 minutes to brown the bacon and begin to form a crust on the meatloaf and brown the vegetables.
  11. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and finish roasting a dark brown crust has formed (or until the bacon is crispy) and the vegetables have browned well, about 35 minutes more. The internal meatloaf temperature should be 140 degrees.
  12. My sister reminded me that sometimes she cannot get a good crust in her electric oven. In either an electric or gas oven, if you did not get a nice crust on the meatloaf, just put it under the broiler to brown quickly. Keep an eye on it so it does not burn.
  13. Serves 4-6.