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You’ll love this springtime-friendly dish I call polpettona ripiena, or stuffed meatloaf. A luxurious take on the classic meatloaf we learned to love growing up, it doesn’t take much more effort and really pays off in the fancy presentation department.

The vegetables in the center, spinach and carrots, can be leftovers as long as they were cooked long enough to become very soft. But the very best surprise in this stuffed meatloaf is the layering of cheesy goodness hidden inside with the combination of melted Cacio di Roma and Pecorino Romano incorporated into the breadcrumbs.

Pecorino cheeses are produced all over Italy, made of sheep’s milk and then aged anywhere from just a few days to a year (and even more). The provenance of the milk and the regional styles define the cheese’s flavor and nuance. As usual, the best bet is to find a local shop that carries a nice selection and go taste them and become your own expert. Your cheese monger knows a thing or a hundred about Pecorino.

Polpettona Ripiena

(Stuffed Meatloaf)

1 pound ground lean pork

1 pound ground lean beef

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs

1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces baby spinach leaves, stems removed, washed and spun dry

2 carrots, cut lengthwise into 6 slices each

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

6 slices prosciutto di Parma

6 slices Cacio di Roma or other semi-soft cheese

2 sprigs rosemary

1 cup water

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, 2 cups of the breadcrumbs, the Pecorino, eggs and salt and pepper to taste. Mix gently, but thoroughly, with your hands. Cover and refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, and add 1 tablespoon salt. Dip the spinach leaves in the water just to wilt them; immediately remove. Add the carrots to the boiling water and cook for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Combine the flour with the remaining 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs and heavily dust a wooden board or other work surface with the mixture. Pat the meat mixture into a 1 1/2-inch-thick rectangle about 16 inches by 6 inches on the dusted board. Lay the spinach leaves over the meat, leaving a 1-inch border on the short sides. Lay the carrot slices over the spinach, lengthwise down the rectangle, then layer the prosciutto and Cacio di Roma over the carrots. Starting from a long side, roll the meat up into a jelly roll, making it as compact as possible; it should be about 16 inches long. Dust the outside with flour.

Put the rosemary under the rack in a broiler pan, and place the loaf on the rack. Pour the cup of water into the pan, and pour the olive oil down the length of the loaf. Bake for 1 hour, or until the loaf reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Transfer the loaf to a cutting board and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Pour the pan juices into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the meat loaf into 1-inch-thick slices and arrange on warmed plates. Drizzle with the sauce, and serve.

Serves 6.

Per serving: 782 calories; 60 g fat (20 g saturated fat; 69 percent calories from fat); 17 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 245 mg cholesterol; 1,170 mg sodium; 44 g protein; 2 g fiber.

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