Recipe: Polpettone with Ricotta, Pistachios, and Prosciutto
A friend recently told me that he had just made a meatloaf, an American-style one, and it had come out very well. I like a good American meatloaf, but I also love polpettone, Italy’s version of a big old load of baked chopped meat. The one I came up with here contains no bread. Instead I’ve held it together with a few eggs and a good amount of ricotta, making it very moist, maybe a little harder to pat into shape, since the mixture is soft, but that’s not a terribly big deal. I wrap the entire thing in prosciutto, which not only holds it together but imparts a lovely flavor, making it taste something like a country pâté.
You can have fun playing around with my seasoning choices, replacing the pistachios with pine nuts, using a Parmigiano instead of a mild pecorino, incorporating a different herb. I chose marjoram, but I’ve also made versions of this using fresh sage (not too much) or thyme. Oh, also, in my opinion, the best polpettone are made from a mix of ground pork and beef chuck, since that gives you enough fat to keep it juicy.
And for all my friends of Puglian decent, here’s a little tune for you.
Polpettone with Ricotta, Pistachios and Prosciutto
1 pound ground pork
½ pound ground beef chuck
1 cup whole milk ricotta, drained if watery
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white, lightly beaten
Extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup grated young pecorino cheese (a pecorino Toscana is a good choice, or a young Manchego)
1 garlic clove, minced
A large handful of unsalted pistachios
A generous handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, lightly chopped
3 or 4 large sprigs marjoram, the leaves chopped
5 or 6 scrapings of fresh nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
About 6 very thin slices prosciutto di Parma
1 wine glass dry white wine
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Put all the ingredients for the polpettone, except for the prosciutto and the white wine, into a large bowl, and season with black pepper and salt (you will want to use a touch less salt than usual, since much of the salt from the prosciutto gets baked into the thing as it cooks). Mix everything around quickly with your fingers, trying not to pack it down too much. The mixture will be loose.
Choose a baking dish that will fit the polpettone fairly snugly with a little room to breath. Coat the bottom of the dish with olive oil. Shape the meat into a log, and set it in the dish. Drape the top with the prosciutto slices, tucking the ends underneath. The prosciutto should pretty much cover the entire meatloaf.
Pour the wine over the meatloaf, and drizzle it with olive oil. Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. I like my polpettone with the slightest touch of pink at the center. That ensures that it will be nice and moist. Let the polpettone rest for about 10 minutes before slicing. You can serve it warm or at room temperature. I like mine served over a chicory salad, but you can, if you wish, make a simple tomato sauce and serve it with that and a vegetable (broccoli rabe?) and a starch (mashed potatoes, or polenta?), in a more Italian-American fashion.