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Polpettone al Sugo - The humble meatloaf cooked in sauce

Sundays growing up consisted of going to church in the morning and then helping mamma prepare lunch.  While eating our lunch we would watch episodes of World Championship Restling or an old classic movie.  This was the only time we were allowed to watch TV during a meal at the table.  

Mamma would get up early to make home made pasta and there was already a pot of (sugo) sauce cooking on the stove.  The sugo was always flavoured with a type of meat ragu` either veal, beef or even pork, depending on the season. During the winter season the home made pork sausages would make an appearance, with its flavoursome sauce used on the freshly made pasta and the sausages eaten as (secondo) the second course to the main.  On any other ordinary day, (polpette) meatballs or its humble relative (il polpettone) meatloaf would be cooked in the sauce.

The meatloaf is so versatile and any left overs can easily be eaten the next day. We would have the left over meat loaf in our school lunches in split vienna bread smothered with some sugo to moisten it a little as it was eaten cold.  Its preparation is simple and can be filled with boiled eggs surrounded by spinach or prosciutto depending on what ingredients you have on hand.  Mamma would sometimes put peas throughout the mince. The meat is prepared like you would prepare meatballs.  The recipe below is my adaptation of mamma's polpettone.  She never followed a recipe and cooked (all'occhio) creating as she went along and depending on what ingredients she had on hand.

Polpettone al Sugo (Meat loaf cooked in sauce)

Polpettone Ingredients:
The meatloaf can be prepared the night before so that it set into shape.

500g  beef mince
500g  pork mince
2 large eggs (raw)
Fresh flat leaf parsley chopped finely (quantity to taste)
1 small brown onion chopped finely
4 slices of fresh/soft breadcrumbs (remove crust)
3 large eggs (boiled)
Fresh leaf spinach (washed and stalks cut off)
2-3 slices of prosciutto ham (if desired, I didn't include this)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of flour for dusting meatloaf
Oil (for shallow frying meatloaf)

Tomato and onion (sugo) sauce:

2 bottles of tomato passata (quantity ensures meatloaf is fully covered when cooking)
1 small brown onion (finely chopped)
1 small garlic clove (crushed)
1 bay leaf
Glass of white wine
Olive oil
Salt to taste

1. For the sauce, add a good dash of olive oil to a large stockpot and the chopped onion and garlic.  Saute` onion and garlic until translucent but not coloured and then add the passata. Reduce the heat, add the wine, bay leaf, season and allow to cook slowly until it thickens.

2. Meanwhile for the stuffed meatloaf, take a large mixing bowl and place the ground beef and pork in it. Season with salt and pepper, chopped parsley, onion, soft bread crumbs and the 2 raw beaten eggs. 

3. Using your hands, bring the mixture together ensuring that all ingredients are evenly and well combined.  Cover and set aside.  It is said that allowing the meat to rest, will allow the infusion of flavours throughout the meat.

4. On a sheet of cling wrap, spread the mince evenly and place the washed and dried spinach leaves on top and then the 3 peeled boiled eggs in the centre lined one behind the other. 

5. Carefully roll the meatloaf and mold into shape using your hands and the cling wrap.  It should be shaped like a large sausage or oval shape.  Secure the ends of the cling wrap and place in fridge to set.  

6. Remove the meatloaf from the cold and let it rest at room temperature.  Remove the cling wrap and dust fully with flour. Bring a large non stick fry pan to medium heat and drizzle lightly with oil.

7. Place the meatloaf in the fry pan and lightly brown on all sides making sure that it does not break as you turn it. I carefully turn it with 2 spatulas.

8. Carefully transfer the browned meatloaf into the sauce and cover with lid.  Keep the heat low and allow to cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring and turning the meatloaf over occasionally so that the meat does not stick to the bottom. 

9. Remove from the heat and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.  I like to serve it with some cooked string beans.  It is just as lovely cold the next day in sandwiches.



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