Polpettone: An Italian Meatloaf from the North

Some dishes give a sense of place and time. This is one such dish. Laced with spices, almost medieval in style, it speaks of memories carried over generations. It invites sharing, it screams conviviality, and after all, isn’t that what good food is about? Friendship, shared dreams, shared memories, lives intertwined. Make this for those you love, and take the time to enjoy it with them. It shall repay your efforts a thousandfold.

  • 400 g ground beef
  • 50 g lard, cut into small pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 80 g grated Parmigiano
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • ½ a lemon
  • 1 slice of country bread, crust removed
  • Breadcrumbs, for rolling
  • Beef, veal, or chicken broth, about two cups
  • 70 g butter
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

Soak the bread in water for about ten minutes, and then wring it out to remove the water.  In a bowl, mix the ground meat, the wrung-out bread, the eggs, the lard, the grated Parmigiano cheese, a pinch of grated cinnamon (a small pinch: the idea is that this is a background note, and should not be notable in anything other than the faintest way when you are eating the final product), the juice of half a lemon (rest to be used at end), and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix very well.

Melt 40 g of the butter in a no-stick frying pan, and heat until hot.  Form the meat mixture into a big fat salami-shaped roll.  Roll it in the breadcrumbs.  Place gently in the frying pan and brown gently on all sides.

Once browned all over, remove it from the pan, and give it a squeeze wrapped in a cloth or kitchen paper to remove excess fat and moisture.  Warm the broth.

Melt the remaining butter in the pan, and then sweat the onions on a medium heat.  Lower the heat to low, and pour in about half the broth and the juice of the other half of the lemon.  Place the polpettone on top and cook at low heat for about 20 minutes.  Add a little broth every now and again as it starts to dry out, and turn it gently from time-to-time as it cooks.

You may serve it with a starch, or polenta, but I find it is not necessary.  Serves 4 comfortably.

Wine pairing: a medium to full bodied red that is bone dry and high in tannins, such as a Barolo or Barbaresco, or a bit sharper such as a Barbera or Gattinara.

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