This is a mash-up of a recipe and a concept. The meatloaf recipe came from my friend Nina who morphed her Sicilian mother and grandmother’s recipe for porpetie (Italian meatballs) into an outstanding free form meatloaf. Way back when I was in New York and starting up my career in food styling I knew a photographer, Bernie Handzel, who taught me how to make sure all the sides of a meatball were properly browned by making cubic (cubed) meatballs instead of round ones-brilliant. I’ve brought together Nina’s meatloaf recipe (which I still use as a meatloaf recipe) with Bernie’s cubic meatball concept for a couple of meals that are both delicious and soul satisfying.
One thing I find fascinating is that some people prefer one version over another, even though meatballs and meatloaf are made from the same ingredients. My son will only grudgingly eat the meatloaf, but he’ll have several bowls of meatballs. He says it’s the crusty goodness of the meatballs. A neighbor will pass on the meatballs but have several slices of meatloaf. As Louis Armstrong would sing–
You say tomato, and I say tomahto
You like the meatballs, and I like the meatloaf
Tomato, tomahto, meatball, meatloaf
Let’s call the whole thing off!
Whether you try meatloaf or meatballs be aware I’ve also added my two cents of tweaking to this recipe. There’s lots more Italian parsley than originally called for and I mixed up the meats adding veal and pork, though you can always use Nina’s original recipe which called for all ground round. When I don’t have dried breadcrumbs I make my own from bread crusts that I blast in a food processor then season with basil, thyme, garlic powder and a pinch of oregano.
Sicilian Meatloaf & Cubic Meatballs
2/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs (or fresh bread crumbs seasoned)
1/4 cup milk
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4-3/4 cup chopped and loosely packed Italian parsley
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 pound ground round (or use three pounds and no veal or pork)
1 pound ground veal
1 pound sweet italian pork sausages (taken out of their casings)
If you are making a meatloaf preheat the oven to 375ºF. If you are making meatballs get out a large cast iron skillet and start gently heating some vegetable oil.
Soften the breadcrumbs with the milk and eggs then add the parmesan cheese, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, mixing to combine. Add your meats and thoroughly blend together. If you are making a meatloaf shape the mixture into a large oval loaf shape and place on a jelly roll pan. Add 1/4 inch of water and bake 1-1 1/4 hours basting every 15 minutes and refilling water as necessary.
If you’re making cubic meatballs make sure the oil is hot and then form your meatballs into cubes. Fry them until crispy and brown on all sides. Usually by then they are cooked all the way through. To be sure you can taste test one or three or you can plop them into some read sauce to simmer and cook more as you continue making more meatballs.
So I’m curious–are you a meatloaf or meatball person?