Polpettone is an Italian meatloaf that’s wonderful to enjoy all year round! It’s a delicious dish to enjoy when you are craving Italian comfort food.
Easiest Italian Meatloaf
Originally published October 11, 2016 republished March 5, 2020.
There has been so much going on these days, and all I’ve been craving is comfort food, like this delicious Italian meatloaf. Polpettone, known as meatloaf in America, is made in various regions in Italy and in so many different ways.
But meatloaf in Italy is not like meatloaf in America. When my husband saw us making an American one with a ketchup sauce on top one time, he was in shock. He didn’t understand why it had to be so sweet when there were so many wonderful savory ways to make a meatloaf. I knew of some different savory versions, but I wanted him to try what you will find all around America. (For the record, he prefers the savory version and my kids also love it.)
An Italian meatloaf is typically made free-form (i.e. not in a baking dish), and in some recipes it is cooked in a skillet on top of the stove. However, I like to bake mine in the oven.
Polpettone in Italy, like many dishes, varies from region to region. In Tuscany, you will find one made with carrots, onions, celery, prosciutto and cheese. If you travel to Emilia Romagna, it will most likely be made with ground beef, pancetta, and nutmeg.
In Naples, you may find one made with raisins, pine nuts, and marjoram. Around Rome, you may find a polpettone made with different ground meats and a tomato caper sauce. My mother-in-law sometimes stuffs her polpettone with mortadella and provolone (so very good!).
What’s Needed for Italian Meatloaf?
To make this ground beef meatloaf with hard-boiled eggs, you’ll need:
- Ground beef
- Fresh Italian parsley
- Fresh rosemary
- Breadcrumbs (use your favorite GF brand to make this GF)
- Eggs (raw and hard-boiled)
- Parmesan cheese
- White wine
- Olive oil
Can I Omit the Hard-Boiled Eggs?
You may not be interested in the hard-boiled egg part of this Italian meatloaf recipe. I usually have some hard-boiled eggs on hand since my kids sometimes want one as a quick snack after school. It looks so pretty when you slice the meatloaf and see the colorful egg. If you don’t want to do the egg part, you could leave it out and still have a delicious meatloaf.
How to Make Italian Meatloaf
Polpettone is incredibly easy to make and requires very little hands-on prep work. Here are the basic steps to making an Italian meatloaf:
- Boil the zucchini, carrots and potatoes until tender.
- In a large bowl, stir together the ground meat, herbs, breadcrumbs, and chopped onion.
- Add in the cooked zucchini and one of the potatoes, followed by the raw eggs, cheese, salt, and pepper.
- Scoop out half the meatloaf mixture and pat into a 9×4-inch rectangle on a foil-lined baking tray.
- Line up the hard-boiled eggs in the center of the rectangle, place the carrot slices besides the eggs, then gently shape the remaining meatloaf mixture around them.
- Bake the Italian meatloaf until done.
- Meanwhile, make the serving sauce using the remaining vegetables and some broth.
- Cut into thick slices and serve with the sauce.
How Long Do You Bake Meatloaf?
This Italian meatloaf will need to bake at 350ºF for roughly 35 to 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 150ºF.
Can You Freeze Meatloaf?
Yes, leftover Italian meatloaf freezes very well. You can either freeze a large chunk of meatloaf or freeze individual slices. Polpettone can be reheated in the oven or microwave.
Tips for Making the Best Polpettone
I’d just made some butternut squash soup to have for the next day, so I used some of it in the meatloaf sauce. If you don’t have any butternut squash or pumpkin soup on hand, you could use some water or any broth you’d like.
While the Italian meatloaf is cooking, add a little bit of water (or any broth if you have it on hand) if it seems to be getting dry around the vegetables.
Just like any other meatloaf, this polpettone is great for making into sandwiches the next day!
What to Serve with Italian Meatloaf
We made some fluffy mashed potatoes to go along with this particular polpettone, but a few of our other favorite side dishes for meatloaf include:
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
- Antipasto Pasta Salad
- Sweet Summer Corn and Cucumber Salad
- Panzanella (Tomato & Bread Salad)
- Cauliflower and Potato Gratin
- Maple Soy Glazed Carrots
Italian Meatloaf (Polpettone)
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (I used grass fed)
- 3 small onions , peeled and sliced in half (plus one 1/2 chopped for the meatloaf mix)
- 1 small zucchini , chopped in small pieces
- 2 carrots , peeled and sliced into long pieces
- 3 small potatoes , peeled and cut into pieces
- ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley (just the leaves)
- 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary , chopped
- 1 cup bread crumbs , use your favorite gluten-free crumbs to make it GF
- 3 eggs , lightly beaten
- 1 cup grated Grana Padano (or Parmigiano-Reggiano)
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (add more to taste)
- 3 hard-boiled eggs , peeled
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup broth (or butternut squash soup)
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a small pot of boiling water, boil the zucchini and potatoes. The zucchini will be finished before the other vegetables. Remove the zucchini when it’s tender and set aside in a small bowl.
- In a medium sized bowl, stir together the ground meat, parsley, rosemary, breadcrumbs, chopped onion. Add in the zucchini and one of the potatoes. Add in the eggs, cheese, salt, pepper and rosemary and stir until combined.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Scoop out 1/2 of the meatloaf mixture and pat it into a rectangle about 9 inches long by 4 inches wide.
- Line the hard-boiled eggs in the center of the meatloaf. Line up one of the carrots cut into slivers next to the eggs. With your hands add on the rest of the meatloaf mixture and pat it on top covering the eggs. Make sure no parts of the eggs are peaking out.
- Place the rest of the potatoes, carrots and onions around the meat loaf in the pan. Add the wine around the pan and drizzle the olive oil on the meatloaf and around the vegetables.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes in the center rack of the oven (until internal temperature is 150 degrees), basting occasionally with the pan juices.
- Remove the dish from the oven. Transfer the meat loaf to a cutting board, and let it rest for at least 15 minutes.
- Puree with an immersion blender (or in your blender)the vegetables that were in the pan and the juices. I had just made pumpkin soup that day and a added about a 1/4 cup of the soup to the juices from the pan to blend all together. If you don’t have any pumpkin soup on hand, you could add broth or even a little water. Heat the sauce on medium-low before serving.
- Cut into thick slices. Arrange on a serving plate with the sauce on the bottom and serve with mashed potatoes.