Tuscan meatloaf

February 17, 2010

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Serves 6

Typical meatloaf, a dish made popular here in the 1950s, is made with ground beef laced with sauteed onions and a goopy topping of ketchup and brown sugar. This prosciutto-flavored version, topped with a porcini tomato sauce, captures all the comforts of home, if home were in Tuscany.

2 thick slices stale bread, crusts removed
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
2 ounces prosciutto, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup chopped parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
1. In a small bowl, soak the bread slices in the milk for 15 minutes.

2. In another bowl, soak the mushrooms in hot water to cover for 15 minutes or until they soften.

3. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef and pork with the prosciutto. Lightly squeeze the bread pieces, tear them into small pieces and add to the meat with the eggs, nutmeg, a large pinch each of salt and pepper, garlic, and parsley. With your hands, work the mixture until smooth. Form into a compact, firm shape, round or oval. Work it well to be sure there are no air holes. Set aside.

4. Set the oven at 375 degrees.

5. In a heavy, flameproof casserole large enough to hold the meat, heat the oil until hot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until softened.

6. With a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms from their soaking liquid, reserving the liquid. Rinse mushrooms under a cold tap and add them to the onions. Strain the soaking liquid to remove any grit; set aside. Push the onions and mushrooms to the sides of the pan. Add the loaf to the casserole. Pour the mushroom liquid in at the sides.

7. Transfer the casserole to the oven. Cook for 45 minutes.

8. Pour the tomatoes or sauce over the top of the meat. Continue cooking for 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the loaf registers 160 degrees for cooked pork. Remove the loaf from the pan. Leave in a warm place for 5 minutes. Slice and serve with the onion and mushroom mixture. Adapted from “Flavors of Tuscany’’