Meat loaf, meat meat loaf. We don’t have it a lot around our house, because these days it’s just the two of us and the dog. Don’t get me wrong, the dog would be perfectly happy to do her share of meat loaf eating, but still. So when I do make meat loaf, you know it’s gotta be a great meat loaf. An out of the ordinary meat loaf. A meat loaf whose memory will last us until the next time I make meat loaf. And this ricotta meat loaf with tomato butter sauce was exactly the meat loaf to do that.
That was a lot of meat loaf. Let’s see if I can keep it going.
I can’t remember where I first tasted this meatloaf, but when I started looking around for recipes for it they all seemed to be based on one created by the amazing Lidia Bastianich. In a nutshell, it’s the same meatloaf we all know and love, but there’s a good amount of ricotta swirled into the meat mixture…and you KNOW I am always looking for any excuse to make my own ricotta cheese. And if that wasn’t enough, there are also cubes of mozzarella cheese that melt into wonderfulness as the meat loaf bakes. And if THAT wasn’t enough, it’s served topped with tomato sauce (I used my favorite sauce, the incredible tomato butter sauce that cooks up in a jif with just three ingredients and will guarantee that you never even LOOK at a jar of pre-made tomato sauce again as long as you live.)
Now, I followed Lidia’s directions pretty closely with one major exception, and that was the amount of ingredients and the amount of cooking time – I cut both of them pretty much in half. There’s a link to her original recipe right under my slightly adapted version, so if you are cooking for a crowd (8 or more) that one is what you want. And then after you make it, you are going to want to go check out her cookbooks as soon as humanly possible. Because you know that this rocking great meatloaf is only the beginning. And if you are cooking for a smaller group, take a look at my modified version. Not that I wouldn’t be incredibly tempted to single-handedly eat eight servings all by my own self.
So here you go, the meat loaf to end all meat loafs. Hurray for meat loaf!
Slightly adapted from Lidia’s marvelous recipe
- ½ cup milk
- 1½ cups day-old bread cubes
- 1½ pounds ground beef
- 2 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
- 1 cup fresh ricotta
- ½ cup chopped scallions
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus extra for garnish
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ tablespoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
- ⅛ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups warm tomato sauce (see the "Best Tomato Sauce In The World" recipe on this blog for a great quick homemade version!)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Pour the milk over the bread cubes and let soak for a few minutes until the bread is saturated. Squeeze the soft bread a handful at a time, pressing out as much milk as you can, crumble bread into crumbs with your fingers and return to the bow.
- Add the ground beef to the bowl, breaking it up into small pieces as you add it. Add the eggs, ricotta, scallions, grated cheese, parsley, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and mix everything together (your clean hands are the very best for this!
- Add the mozzarella cubes and work them through the meat mixture until they are evenly distributed.
- Place a metal cooling rack in a roasting pan and brush it with olive oil. Shape the meat mixture into an oval loaf and lay it on the rack. Brush the loaf with olive oil and cover the roasting pan with foil, tenting it up so it doesn't touch the meat loaf. Bake for 45 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover again with the foil and let the meat loaf rest for 15 minutes.
- Slice thickly and pour the tomato sauce on top. Garnish with more chopped parsley and serve.