Polpettone, A Family Classic

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Here’s the very, very simple basic recipe for polpettone, what ou readers in the English-speaking world call meat loaf. It’s an italian family classic, with as many variations as there are families. I’ll suggest a few.

Traditionally, meat balls and meat loaf were a cornerstone of leftover recipes: the idea being that once you mince it finely, mix it with onions and garlic and a little parmigiano, build it up with some ground hard bread and cook it, you may as well not know what it was in the beginning. Which often could be the best option, Italy this being a poor-people’s recipe.

Times luckily have changed, and the polpettone I grew up with was made out of fresh ground meat, not roast or lesso (boiled meat) leftovers nor unspeakable parts of animals.

This is a super-fast recipe that requires a just little oven time, so it fully qualifies as a while-you-work recipe, ideal for SOHO cooking.

Apron-to-dish time: 50 minutes (of which 40 will not require your attention)

Here’s what you need for 5 servings:

  • 3oog, mince beef
  • 300g, mince pork
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 100g grated parmigiano
  • 4 tablespoonfuls, grated bread

First, turn the oven on and set it to 225°C.

Toss everything together with a pinch or two of salt in a large bowl and mix vigorously until you get an even mix. If you are using an electric mixer, once you’re done with it work the mix with your bare hands, the result will be a more compact, less grainy mix and you’ll love it.

a buttered bread pan
butter a bread pan and place a few flakes of butter on the bottom

Butter the sides and bottom of a bread pan, toss a few butter flakes on the bottom and press the mix firmly inside, making sure it adheres to the bottom and all sides. I like to make three deep, longitudinal cuts in the loaf, to allow the inside to cook more evenly

raw meat loaf mix in a bread pan
press the mix in the pan, making sure it touches all sides

Put in the oven and give it about 30 minutes. Then, turn the loaf so that the top of the loaf gets a good crusty golden finish from the cooking fats.

a cooling meat loaf, ready to cut
put the loaf on a cutting board and let cool for 5 minutes

After 10 more minutes, take the loaf out of the pan (there will be a decent amount of fat on the bottom —leave it there) and set it on a cutting board to cool. Slice after 5 minutes and serve.

slices of meat loaf in a dish with a dill pickle
Buon appetito!

That’s it! And, kids will love it. Serve with salad in summer and mashed potatoes in winter. If you are pretending to diet, accompany with dill pickles.

Other options (pick all you want):

  • I like to mince 2 cloves of garlic in the mix. But Simona has issues with garlic, so I have left it out
  • Simona’s choice: a handful of whole green pitted olives in the mix; lovely, but Costanza has issues with “strange stuff” in her food. Kids…
  • a generous amount of Tabasco Habanero (see above, sigh)
  • push cubes of pecorino or mozzarella in the center of the loaf before cooking.


    • well, my personal choice is for three pressed cloves of garlic in the above amount of meat but, as I said, Simona has issues with garlic. And with hot food (at least, to what I call hot).
      A cook’s life is difficult indeed…

  1. Just found your blog– I’m charmed. I’ve never read an “About” post that was so warm and welcoming– and I loved your “apron to dish time” comment for the cooking time. We lived in Spain for 12 years when our children were small and traveled in Italy several times– I look forward to reading more!– and finally, the polpetonne looks wonderful! thanks.

    • hello Rhonda, thank you so much for the flattering words. The “About” is totally Simona’s work, while I take credit for the down-to-earth way of measuring cooking time.
      We plan to be writing more often, starting now, do let us know how you like it.
      And if you try the polpettone, we’ll be happy to hear your opinion on that as well.

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