madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


broccoli meatloaf

broccoli meatloaf

oh-so-yummy and full of goodness

Every time I make meatloaf I have to think of my friend AnnMarie. A sophisticated American-Italian from New York, she told me that her mum would serve meatloaf only to family.

Apparently she did not consider it presentable to guests due to its lack of elegance. The remark caused a certain level of worry as the dish had been ruthlessly celebrated in my house – and with pride – as one of the best inventions to be placed on a dinner table.

This was a long time ago, more than 20 years. Meanwhile something must have happened as the meatloaf has been voted in 2007 the seventh-favorite dish in the US. Someone must have decided to stop keeping it to themselves.

This is our official family meatloaf, stuffed with fragrant broccoli which  are in season now. You can of course use other veggies like asparagus or green beans. It’s actually a fabulous dish for entertaining as you can prepare and cook it a day ahead.

Slice it one hour before serving and pop it in the microwave for a few minutes just to soften it. Don’t over-warm it though. It will fall apart and lose its good looks.


  • 600 gr ( 1.3 lb) minced pork, beef or a mixture of both
  • 120 gr  (1/2 cup) seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 3-4 tablespoon milk
  • half a teaspoon salt
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • 100 gr (3.5 oz) mild cheese like caciotta or provola, diced
  • 60 gr (2 oz)  guanciale (sub. with pancetta if not available)
  • 300 gr broccoli (about 1 small head) cleaned and divided into florets
  • 1  garlic clove, finely minced

Blanch broccoli in plenty boiling water for 5 min. Drain and sauté in 1 tablespoon olive oil and garlic for 1 min or until just fragrant. Season lightly.

Preheat oven at 200 °C (390 °F).

Combine meat, egg, milk, black pepper and salt with bread crumbs. Mix with your hands until the mixture is cohesive.

Butter generously a 1.2 lt (5 cups) terrine or loaf mold. Reserve about 1/4 of the meat and use the rest to fill the bottom and sides of the mould, making a 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick compact layer.  Line the ground-meat case with slices of guanciale (or pancetta) overlapping edges slightly and leaving a 2 cm (1 inch) overhang on the sides.

Note: in a classic French terrine the fat is used to line the mould. In this recipe the fat is used inside the meat case to give flavor to the filling.

Now fill all the rest of the space with broccoli and diced cheese. Press down the filling to avoid gaps. Cover the filling with the overhanging pancetta followed by the rest of the ground-meat. Brush the top layer of meat with a small amount of melted butter and bake uncovered for 40 min or until starting to become golden around the sides.

Cool off completely. Slice and serve as explained above.

Serves 4-6

PS. Please don’t ask me a sauce. If you must have tomatoes, serve the meatloaf with a mound of cherry tomatoes dressed in fruity olive oil piled over toasted crusty bread. Or over mashed potatoes. I promise you, it’s enough for a glorious meal.

the beautiful slices

the beautiful slices



broccolo romanesco

broccoli romanesco, a beautiful cousin of cauliflower

ROMANESCO BROCCOLI or CORAL BROCCOLI, it is actually a variant form of cauliflower. Awesomely beautiful, it is also a mathematical plant. Its shape is fractal, meaning that each bud is arranged along a logarithmic spiral and each small spiral participates to a larger spiral to obtain the final form. Mind boggling.

This recipe – originally from Puglia – exemplifies the just discussed use of umami-rich ingredients in Italian food. A tiny bit of anchovy combined with a healthy sprinkle of cheese brings out the vibrant flavor of the vegetables and makes a perfect pasta sauce. It is ready in 20 min. Happiness for dinner.


  • 350 gr (12 ounces) short pasta like orecchiette or penne
  • 1 head Romanesco broccoli, though base stalk trimmed, cut into florets
  • 2 tablespoon EVO oil
  • 1 anchovy  fillet
  • 1 large clove of garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1 chili pepper (optional)
  • 3-4 tablespoon Parmesan, grated

For the sauce, use a large sauté pan or, even better, a wok.  Add garlic, chile pepper if using, olive oil, anchovy and saute over low fire until the anchovy is melted. Do not brown the garlic. Set aside.

Please keep in mind that broccoli cook in about 5 min. so you need to boil them for less time than the pasta.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until 5 min. before the end of the cooking time indicated on the package. Add the broccoli florets, cover and bring quickly to the boil again.

After 5 min. strain the vegetables and pasta, and transfer in the wok containing the garlic mixture. Add 2-3 tablespoon of pasta water, half of the cheese and stir vigorously over high fire until all moisture is absorbed . Serve immediately with more cheese on the side.

For a vegetarian version omit the anchovy and use aged pecorino cheese instead of Parmesan. This recipe can be made with regular broccoli and sprouting broccoli as well.

Serves 3-4

penne with Romanesco broccoli

Broccoli on Foodista


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