Classic Italian Meatloaf is a very tasty and savory dish made of ground meat, eggs and cheese. In Italian it’s called Polpettone which means “big meatball”.
Meatloaf recipe is simple and very fast, the mixture is similar to that of meatballs recipe (hence the name), loved by everyone: mix the ingredients in a bowl, give a cylindrical shape and cook in the oven for about 1 hour. That easy.
You can make the version of the classic meatloaf, as in this recipe, or fill it as you like, with ham, cheese, vegetables or bacon: whatever you have available in the refrigerator, in short.
The secret for a tender and juicy consistency of a baked Italian meatloaf is to cook it in the oven, covered with foil for half an hour, in this way the heat spreads evenly. Then you finish cooking without foil, to make it crispy on the surface.
A quick and easy recipe in the preparation, this traditional meatloaf is served in slices, hot or cold to taste, it can be made ahead and eaten even the following day.
Classic Italian Meatloaf Recipe
- 500 g (about 1 pound) of ground beef
- 3 slices of white bread
- 200 ml of whole milk
- 1 medium egg
- 150 g (about 5 oz) of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon of thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon of fine salt
- ground black pepper
- 1 cup of bread crumbs
- extra virgin olive oil
Step 1) – Start making the classic Italian meatloaf recipe by chopping the beef with a meat grinder then place the ground meat in a large bowl. In the meantime, soften the slices of white bread in the milk. If you like, you can even use stale bread.
Step 2) – Let the bread soak and soften as much as possible in the milk. With slices of fresh bread it takes not even 5 minutes. Allow more time if you are using stale bread. Now squeeze the slices of bread with your hands, so as to squeeze out as much milk as possible.
Step 3) – Now add the bread, the egg and the grated pecorino cheese to the meat. Finally add the thyme, nutmeg, salt and ground black pepper.
Step 4) – Knead the mixture with your hands to mix all the ingredients evenly.
Step 5) – Then give it the shape of a cylinder, taking care to compact it well. Place the meatloaf on a plate and in the meantime make the bread crumbs. Grate the stale bread with a hand grater for cheese.
Step 6) – Then bread the meatloaf in plenty of breadcrumbs
Step 8) – Cover the baking dish with a sheet of aluminum foil and cook in the middle part of the oven at 200° C (390 F) for about 30 minutes. After this time, check the cooking: the meatloaf has pulled out some liquid, but it will be cooked to perfection, even inside. Then remove the aluminum foil, place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes.
Step 9) – The classic Italian meatloaf is ready. Cut it into slices and serve hot with a salad or roasted potatoes. If you cooked the day before, when you serve you can heat it in the oven, microwave or pan. Excellent even cold.
How to Store Classic Italian Meatloaf
This baked meatloaf can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight food container for up to 3 days. You can even freeze it if you have used fresh ingredients.
What Kind of meat is best for meatloaf?
It’s always better to choose a meat that has a fatty part just to make a tasty and soft meatloaf. For this, get some rather fatty beef or half beef and half pork. If you want to use white meat, such as chicken, mix it with ricotta so that it doesn’t dry out too much during cooking.
Meatloaf has to be Cooked in the Oven or in a Pan?
The meatloaf can be cooked in both ways.
The recipe for meatloaf cooked in a pan wants it to be browned in the pan and then cooked over medium heat with the addition of a liquid part, such as wine or stock.
In the oven, ideal cooking is in foil: you can cover the baking dish with an aluminum foil as in this recipe or wrapp the meatloaf in parchment paper, but in this case the result will be a little drier.
An alternative to making the baked meatloaf really soft and tasty is to wrap it in slices of bacon.
Variants of the Classic Italian Meatloaf
In addition to the type of meat (pork, veal, chicken or turkey), you can even change the mixture of the ingredients, to your liking, adding spices, aromatic herbs, cheese or cold cuts.
To make it really greedy you can fill it. You can simply stuff it, or turn it into a roll. Just spread the minced meat mixture as if it were a pizza dough and spread cheeses, boiled eggs, cold cuts … whatever you prefer. Roll everything up and close with plastic wrap. Leave the meatloaf to cool in the refrigerator for an hour, then wrap it in parchment paper, closing the ends, as if it were a large candy. Only in this way it will not break during cooking. Follow the cooking times and methods as per the classic meatloaf recipe, half an hour covered half an hour uncovered.