I know that you will think I have something against that poor woman of Nigella. The thing is that I don't think this time she's getting anything right, or at least very few (let's be positive!).
You might remember a few posts back on how to make Pesto alla Genovese (and a few family members scattered around Liguria can testify for me that it's THE authentic recipe). Nigella doesn't use pine nuts; the result is probably of some mushy basil leaves in oil. Pine nuts are essential.
Now, without even knowing that it was on Nigella's menu, my mother made meat loaf, also better known as Polpettone. My mother's recipe, without being vintage, is superb. No bread crumbs, as this would make it too dry, but parmisan to give it a mellow kick, and no chunky onions which I am sure will fill your mouth when you give a bite to it.
To confirm I am totally right, I will make them both and R. will be my judge (I am not competitive at all)...that the battle of polpettoni begins!
Polpettone di Mamma Rita (or Mamma Rita meat loaf)
600g lean (max 12% fat) beef mince
2 thick slices of white bread
2 eggs (beaten)
parsley (two handfuls)
a quarter of garlic
2-3 hard boiled egg
100ml olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1. Prepare the mayonnaise first. Leave an egg out of the fridge for at least 1/2 hours before using it (this is tricky as I always think of making it too late! so half an hour might do providing your kitchen is a bit warmer than mine).
2. Crack the egg in a long and thin container, salt (1 tsp will do for now) and the juice of the lemon. Start beating it with blades (Moulinex blender will be ok) adding slowly the oil. Incorporate the oil and then add gradually more. You need to get a consistent but smooth sauce. Add salt if necessary. Set it aside in the fridge covering it with cling film to avoid it make a thick layer on the surface.
3. Soak the bread in a bowl with enough milk to cover it. Just leave it in the milk for a minute as it only needs to soak and not disintegrate... Squeeze the milk and tear it into small pieces.
4. In a large bowl put the mince, add 1 tsp of salt (not too much as the parmisan will add the flavour) and mix well. Add the soaked bread and mix well.
5. Grate the parmisan and add it to the meat. Add also the finely chopped parsley and the quarter garlic very finely chopped (if you have it, you can replace parsley and garlic with salsa verde).
6. Add the egg and mix well. Make the loaf into a flat square. Place the boiled eggs on half of this square and fold the other half to close it well.
7. Cooking: two options. 1. Boiled in a cloth (the cloth will release some juice which you can use to pour onto the meat and make it more moisture) in boiling water for 30 minutes; 2. Roasted in the oven wrapped in silver foil for 40 minutes at C220 (after the first 30 minutes open the foil on the top so that the surface of the loaf golden up a bit without burning).
8. Serve either options above with the prepared mayonnaise.
I must recognise that the addition of bacon while cooking in the oven could be good (Nigella gets something right from time to time), so do try it and let me know!
This is a really easy recipe which can be used both for an informal meal or for a buffet and a real warmer. You can embellish the meat loaf with raisin and pine nuts (the first ones soaked in sherry for 10 minutes, then squeezed and added to the mince, the second ones tossed in a pan and added to mince) as well as some sausage meat (reducing the mince quantity, e.g. 450g mince meat, 150g sausage).
Polpettone is a real childhood madeleine for me. We have it in Autumn when days start getting shorter and chilly. The photos below are from our garden.