This recipe was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2004.

Armandino Batali's Italian-style meat loaf

INGREDIENTS: (Serves four as a hearty main dish or two with leftovers)

12 ounces (350g) lean ground beef
2 mild Italian sausages
6 ounces fresh whole-milk mozzarella
1/2 medium sweet onion
2 large garlic cloves
1 tablespoon (15g) butter
6 ounces (3/4 cup) fresh bread crumbs
2 ounces (1/4 cup) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 heaping teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Black pepper
3/4 cup V-8 or similar tomato-vegetable juice
1 egg
1/4 cup dry red wine


1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C).

2. Prepare the ingredients: Remove the sausage meat from its casings and crumble gently. Grate the mozzarella, which should yield enough to loosely fill a measuring cup. Chop the onion (which should be enough to yield about 1/2 cup), mince the garlic, and cook the onion and garlic gently in the butter until they're soft and translucent. Make the bread crumbs (I simply whacked a leftover white dinner roll into crumbs in the food processor). Chop the sun-dried tomatoes. Measure out the other ingredients.

3. In a large bowl, gently mix the ground beef, sausage, grated cheese, cooked onions and garlic, bread crumbs, chopped tomatoes, basil, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Blend about two-thirds of the V-8 juice, the egg and red wine separately, and fold this liquid mix into the dry ingredients. (If you want to taste-test, cook a bite-size bit in a little oil in a sautee pan. I trusted my sources, and my instincts, and finished the dish without tasting a sample first.)

4. Divide the meat mixture into two parts, form them into long oval loaves, and place them on a baking sheet lined with lightly greased aluminum foil. (I omitted the foil, and spent a good 15 minutes of grumbling and scrubbing as a result. Take my word for it: You'll want to protect your cookie sheet from the black gunk that forms when this otherwise stupefyingly delicious dish cooks at high heat.) When the loaves are formed and placed on the pan, brush their tops with the remaining V-8 juice and dust with a little more dried oregano, salt and pepper.

5. Place the loaves in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the temperature at the center reaches 150 to 160F. Allow it to stand for 15 minutes or so before carefully cutting into thick slices and serving.

MATCHING WINE: The meats, herbs and cheese in this Italian-style dish would make it a natural with stereotypical Italian reds, from basic Chianti to Montepulciano d'Abruzzo to Valpolicella. Any red with a similar fruity-tart, relatively high-acid flavor profile will be fine, though; we paired it successfully with the offbeat Turkish wine featured in Monday's 30 Second Wine Advisor, Kavaklidere 2002 "Yakut" Oküzgözü d'Elazig.