Sicilian Meatloaf and Cubic Meatballs

"Sicilian Meatloaf"

Sicilian Meatloaf

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.

"simmering cubic meatballs"

Cubic Meatballs

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

2 eggs

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.

"sicilian meatloaf ready to bake"

Sicilian meatloaf ready to go in the oven

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.

"cubic meatballs getting all nice and crusty"

The crustification of cubic meatballs

So I’m curious–are you a meatloaf or meatball person?


Filed under 50 Recipes

3 responses to “Sicilian Meatloaf and Cubic Meatballs

  1. Marisa

    Ceil – interesting recipe very different from my family’s recipe but leaves me hankering. While I will eat meatloaf, everyone in my family definitely prefers MEATBALLS – and although they are fabulous in the sauce – who can pass up a freshly fried meatball? We have to make twice as much some for eating the day your are cooking and some for the sauce with pasta the next day…oh and what about the braciole? Thin sliced beef rolled up with romano cheese, garlic, parsley, lots of crushed black pepper and raisins – then braised in red wine, onions and garlic and finished cooking in a big pot of sauce.

    • OK, I’m drooling. I haven’t had braciole in ages! I totally agree with you about the need to make more meatballs-they seem to evaporate no matter whose house you are in.

  2. stephanie osiecki

    Cynthia, the italian language has a lovely way of describing these variations.
    for example: spaghetti (regular size) spaghettini (fine spaghetti)
    spaghettone (thick spaghetti)
    and for meatballs:
    polpetti (regular size) polpettini ( tiny meatballs) and polpettone (meatloaf)
    i like the orderly progression of size of meatballs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.