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Meatloaf RomanaI forget about meatloaf and I don’t know why.  We love it.  It’s goes together quickly.  It practically bakes itself and damn, it’s just so delicious.  And best of all, it makes great sandwiches.  I’ve already given you Roadhouse Meatloaf, but you should have this one, too.  You’ll see that unflavored gelatin in the ingredients list and you’ll wonder what the hell has happened to my brain.  That’s a reasonable reaction.  But, I tell you that smarter people than I have tested this and it does make a difference.  Meatloaf blends of ground meats usually contain veal and veal has lots of gelatin, but it doesn’t contribute much texture and can have a liver-y taste.  So, we add the gelatin…see?  Isn’t that logical?  Who knew?  Well, the people over at Cook’s Illustrated™ tested this and they sort of know what they’re doing!

By the way, you could add some finely minced fresh fennel, sautéed in some good olive oil to this, or even crushed fennel seeds, if you like that Italian sausage flavor.  You can also add black olives, which look ever-so nice when you slice this loaf and a very finely shredded carrot adds a nice sweetness, too.

Gelatin "Bloomed"in Beef BrothStart by blooming the gelatin.  Place it in a small bowl; add the broth and red wine and give it a stir.  Just set it aside for about 5 minutes to allow the gelatin to “bloom”, absorb the liquid and swell up.  Then, I just nuke it for about 15 seconds on HIGH or until it melts.  Careful because the mixture has a tendency to boil over easily.  You don’t want to add hot liquid to the meat, so set it aside to cool to room temperature.

Meatloaf RomanaIn another bowl, add everything else, except the pasta sauce, tomato paste and sugar; that’s the topping.  Just toss all the meatloaf ingredients into a good-sized bowl (at least an 8 cup volume).  I usually break the meat up, crumble it as best I can.  Then, I just sprinkle everything around, one on top of the other.  Meatloaf RomanaThen, I pour the cooled broth/gelatin mixture over it and dig right in with my hands.  Oh yes, remember to remove any jewelry first…meatloaf is not good stuck in the prongs of a ring!  Try not to compact the mixture too much.  Drop the mixture into a plastic bag and chill for at least 4 hours if you can.  But, you can combine the ingredients, chill the mixture overnight and tomorrow, dinner is almost ready!  Just shape and bake.

This mixture is pretty soft, but the smart people over at Serious Eats have a great idea—Meatloaf Romana“…I packed my meatloaf mix into a loaf pan, covered it with foil, Meatloaf Romanaand then inverted the whole thing onto a rimmed baking sheet, spreading out the foil so that I now had a foil-lined baking sheet with an inverted meatloaf and loaf pan on top of it. I baked this way for about half an hour—just long enough to set its shape—and then used a spatula and kitchen towels to lift off the pan. Meatloaf RomanaThe result was a perfectly loaf-shaped meatloaf (just right for slicing into sandwiches), with all the advantages of a free-form loaf and its extra surface area.”  I followed this procedure and it’s something you might want to consider.  It worked really, really well.  Those “Serious Eats” people are so clever.

Meatloaf Romana

Meatloaf Romana

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

This is best if you combine the ingredients up to 24 hours ahead, chill it, then shape it into a loaf just prior to baking it.

  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup strong beef broth (see NOTE)
  • 1/3 cups dry red wine
  • 1 1/4 pounds relatively lean ground beef (I use 85% or 90% lean)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 3/4 cup very finely minced ham
  • 3/4 cup very finely minced onion
  • 1/2-3/4 cup very finely diced sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Asiago or Parmesan or an Italian mix (see NOTE)
  • 1/3 cup dry potato flakes
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons dry bell pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dry basil
  • 1 teaspoons porcini mushroom powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoons garlic granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup pasta sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Place the gelatin in a small bowl.  Add the broth and red wine; stir.  Set aside for about 5 minutes to allow the gelatin to bloom.  Place the dish in the microwave; heat until melted, about 15 seconds on HIGH.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Using at least an 8 cup bowl, toss the meats, ham, onion, tomatoes, cheese, potato flakes, cornmeal, bell pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce, spices and black pepper, eggs and ketchup.  Pour the reserved gelatin/broth mixture over the whole thing.  Combine the mixture thoroughly, but do not compact it more than necessary.  I use my hands for this, as I find they allow me to “feel” the mixture come together.  Cover and chill for at least 3-4 hours, if possible (or up to 24 hours).  Combine the pasta sauce, tomato paste and sugar.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325°F.  Shape the mixture into a loaf; place on a foil like baking pan or cookie sheet (or a an oven-proof skillet).  Bake for 45-60 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 140°F.  Remove from the oven; tent loosely with foil and let stand for 10 minutes.  Slice into thick slices and serve.

NOTE:  Just dump all the ingredients into the bowl, one thing on top of the other. Try not to over-work the mixture, as that toughens it and compacts it, which may result in a dry meat loaf.  At this point, the mixture should be very soft.  Meatloaf makes excellent sandwiches, either hot or cold.  Simply slice into 1/4-inch slices when cold so the meat won’t crumble.  We like to slather with pasta sauce and a schmear of pesto, with provolone cheese melted over it on good bread.  For the strong broth, I use 1 teaspoon of beef broth concentrate to 1/2 cup of water.  For the cheese mixture, I use BelGioioso™ Four Cheese Blend; a blend of the dry Italian cheeses.

Meatloaf Romana Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2017.  All rights reserved.

Sandwich with Meatloaf Romana, Cheese, Onion and MustardLEFTOVERS:  I’m thinking about the sandwiches I want to make.  This one has cheese, raw Vidalia onions, mustard on some really good bread.  We had this with Tomato-Corn Chowder.  And then the next evening, The Spicy Honey asked if there was any more of that soup and if there could be another meatloaf sandwich, maybe?  Of course, there can beMeatloaf Sandwich…this sandwich was a sub with raw onion slices, meatloaf slices, a smear of pasta sauce and cheese.  I slid it under the broiler for a couple of minutes, until the meatloaf was warmed through, the bread slightly crisped and the cheese was browned and melt-y.  Meatloaf SandwichWe think this sandwich alone is reason enough to make meatloaf…Yes, leftovers are a thing of beauty.