Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pancetta packs flavor into Italian meatloaf

Meatloaf -- it’s a dish and a singer.
   Today I’m writing about the ubiquitous comfort food and a version we tried recently that was quite amazing.
   Italian meatloaf from BBC GoodFood magazine transformed what can be humdrum dinner into something remarkably tasty.
   I think the secret ingredient is pancetta, salt-cured pork belly that is similar to bacon. It added moisture and depth of flavor to the meatloaf.
   If you can’t find pancetta, bacon can be substituted, but most large, well-stocked supermarkets should have it.
   The recipe’s instruction to line a loaf pan with two layers of parchment paper is a good one.
   The paper soaks up all the oil coming out of the ground beef, and makes it easy to remove from the pan – all you need to do is lift out the meatloaf using the overhang of the parchment.
   Instead of making the fresh white breadcrumbs that the recipe asks for, we used panko instead, a type of ready-made fine Japanese breadcrumb that can be found in the bakery or Asian foods section of many supermarkets.
   The recipe also calls for tomato puree. As I understand it, the Brits mean tomato paste when they say tomato puree, so that is what we used.
   The recipe is very easy to make.
   Lean ground beef, breadcrumbs, finely-grated Parmesan cheese, onion, pancetta, garlic, egg and tomato paste are mixed together in a large bowl, then pressed into a loaf pan and sprinkled with a topping of breadcrumbs and Parmesan.
   The meatloaf is baked for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is golden and crunchy. It’s cooled in the pan for five minutes before serving.

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