Italian bread and garlic infused olive oil give my rustic meatloaf recipe a to-die-for richness that is not only delicious, but healthy, too. Individual, mini meatloaves offer a shorter cooking time for almost-instant gratification. Italian bread, Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh parsley and bits of peppery garlic replace store bought bread crumbs. And lean ground beef is made moist and flavorful by replacing the saturated fat (found in ground chuck) with healthful and fruity olive oil.
Cut the crust off a loaf of Italian bread (or pull out the insides, which is what we do at home...so fun!). Discard the crust and continue to pull apart the insides to resemble large pieces of Panko bread crumbs, about 1/4". Or, leave out to dry for a couple of hours and pulse once or twice in the food processor to form small chunks, roughly 1/4" big. Place bread pieces in a large bowl. Add Parmesan, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic and ground beef to the bowl - do not stir. In a separate bowl, add the egg, cream, milk, oil, vinegar and sugar. Lightly beat to mix and then add to the bread mixture. Using your hands, mix the ingredients until well combined and bread is moist.
At this point, you can make one giant meatloaf* (my mom fancied a football shape on a baking sheet), small individual meatloaves, or, even meatballs of any size (same recipe, but different cooking method!) I prefer individual meatloaves because mini foods are, well, fun...and cook faster. *You'll need to adjust your cooking time if making one big meatloaf.
Divide the meat mixture into 6 equal portions and form into a ball. Flatten the balls slightly to form a thick patty. Place your oven rack on the middle slot and broil the patties for 7 minutes on each side. Because every broiler will cook at different temperatures (based on gas vs. electric vs. the meat/distance from heat ratio), keep an eye on these during the first 5 minutes to be sure they don't overcook (or undercook). When browned and perfect, flip the patties and brown the other side under the broiler.
Serve on a bed of sauteed escarole with cannellini beans (pictured above) and balsamic tomato puree (my rendition of Italian ketchup), topped with sour cream mashed fingerling potatoes. Here's a quick how-to:
Escarole: Wash, dry and chop escarole. Saute on med heat with 1 tbs. olive oil. When slightly wilted, turn heat to low and add 1 large clove of garlic, minced. Continue to heat on low until completed wilted. Add 1 cup of beans, toss to incorporate and warm.
Balsamic Tomato Puree: Over low heat, add 1 clove garlic, minced, and 1 tsp. olive oil. Add 1 cup San Marzano crushed tomatoes and 2 tbs. balsamic vinegar. Heat to warm. Use a hand blender to puree and thicken sauce.
Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes: Boil 1 lb. of fingerling potatoes in salted water. drain and return to pot. Add 1/2 cup milk and 2 tbs. butter. Mash together. Add 1/2 cup sour cream. Mix. Add more milk if needed. Add salt to taste.