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 Passing around a meat loaf Food lovers share, and modify, a delicious Italian-style comfort dish.
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Passing around a meat loaf

Meat loaf, as I wrote when we surveyed this topic last winter, is ultimate comfort food. As I said then, "a well-made meatloaf can be a thing of culinary beauty, as inviting as a roast but deliciously different, making up for its humble origins with a mix of subtle flavors not easily attainable in an unadorned roast."

Participants in our Food Lovers' Discussion Group have recently been passing around a recipe for an unusually delicious meat loaf, a moist-and-juicy rendition with beef and sausage loaded with herbal flavors, sun-dried tomatoes and luscious mozzarella. It's a toothsome concoction that falls somewhere on the spectrum between traditional meatloaf and a hearty Italian meatball.

It has been fun to watch my "foodie" pals pass this recipe around, each making small changes based on inspiration and instinct and what's in the larder. The recipe began with restaurateur Armandino Batali of Salumi in Seattle, whose son, Mario Batali, is the well-known New York City restaurateur (Babbo, Lupa) and FoodTV personality. It appeared in the September 2004 edition of Bon Appetit magazine, and was republished on the magazine's Website,

My pal Jenise, who serves as volunteer "honorary dishwasher" on the Food Lovers' forum, found it there, modified it to reduce the quantity and fat, and joyously reported it as "The Best Meatloaf I've Ever Tasted, Bar None."

Naturally this accolade prompted quite a few of us to try it, each with our own variations. Mine follows, reduced still further in size and tweaked a bit; I was somewhat surprised to learn after the fact that some of my changes (whole-milk mozzarella, red wine) moved it back in the direction of the Batali original. The variation's not over, either. Next time I think I'll add a little crushed fennel seed.

However we altered the recipe, everyone who tried it agreed with Jenise's analysis: Meat loaf doesn't get much better than this. It's so juicy and succulent that it requires no sauce; and it's just as good - maybe even better - served cold in thick slices on good Italian bread as a sandwich on the following day. Leftovers don't get much better than this, either!

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.

Want a copy that's easy to use in the kitchen? You'll find a simple, plain-text version of these recipes, suitable for printing, online at

The Armandino Batali original is online at

Here's Jenise's original post on the Food Lovers' Discussion Group, with all replies:

And here's a follow-up discussion involving more participants' recipe reports:

If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about this recipe or food and cookery in general, you're welcome to drop by our Food Lovers' Discussion Group, where I've posted this article as a new topic, "FoodLetter: Passing around a meat loaf."

Click the REPLY button on the forum page to post a comment or response. (If your E-mail software broke this long link in half, take care to paste it all back into one line before you enter it in your Web browser.)

Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives

Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Oven "fries" and cheese sauce (Nov. 4)

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Thursday, Nov. 11, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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