This pure comfort food, with unique qualities from the Spanish, Caribbean and African influences is Pulpeta meatloaf, Cuban style—stovetop-easy and hides a savory surprise. It’s loaded with classic Cuban flavors, starting with a sofrito-like base of sautéed onion, bell pepper and garlic. Smoked paprika and cumin add depth, while oregano and bay leaf bring herbal notes. And the acidity from white wine and crushed tomatoes balances the savoriness of the meat.
According to Milk Street where we sourced this recipe, it provides a couple of good stopping points for make-ahead convenience. The loaves can be shaped and then refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Or the loaves can be fully cooked, cooled in the sauce and refrigerated in the pot for up to three days; set the pot over medium-low for about 20 minutes, occasionally turning the loaves, to gently rewarm.
I made the hard boiled eggs a day prior; and formed the meatloaves in the morning, wrapped and refrigerated them for 8 hours until I was ready to start cooking in the evening.
Breaded, browned, then braised in a garlicky, wine-brightened tomato sauce, and flavored with smoked paprika and bay, the well-seasoned loaf hides hard-cooked eggs at the center. As you can see at a glance, it definitely requires more work to prepare than American meatloaf. But if you have an afternoon to spare, you won’t be disappointed.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to firmly compact the meat mixture around the eggs when forming the loaves so there aren’t any gaps between the eggs and meat. This will help the loaves hold together during breading, cooking and slicing. Also, be sure to turn the loaves at least once during simmering and stir the sauce as it reduces to ensure there’s no scorching on the bottom of the pot.
10 medium garlic cloves, 6 smashed and peeled, 4 minced
4 oz. thinly sliced ham, roughly torn or chopped
7 large eggs, 3 raw, 4 hard-cooked and peeled
1 lb. 80 percent lean ground beef
8 oz.s ground pork
2 tsp. smoked paprika, divided
1 tsp. dried oregano
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. plus ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium green or red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry white wine
14 1/2 oz. can crushed tomatoes (1 ⅔ cups)
1 cup water
In a food processor, pulse the crackers until broken down into a mix of fine and flaky crumbs, 10 to 14 pulses. Transfer to a pie plate (you should have about 1¼ cups); set aside. To the food processor, add the smashed garlic and the ham; pulse until finely chopped, about 4 pulses. Add 2 of the raw eggs; pulse a few times to combine. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
To the ham-egg mixture, add the ground beef and pork, 1½ teaspoons of the paprika, the oregano, ⅓ cup of the cracker crumbs, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Using your hands, mix until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
Lay a 12-inch square of plastic wrap on the counter. Place half of the meat mixture in the center. Using your hands, press the mixture into a rough 7-inch square. Place 2 of the hard-cooked eggs lengthwise along the center, then bring the sides of the meat mixture up to fully enclose the eggs and form the meat mixture into a cylinder about 5 inches long and 3 inches in diameter; compact the meat mixture with your hands to ensure there are no gaps around the eggs.
Lift the end of the plastic nearest you up and over the cylinder and wrap it securely, then, without applying pressure, roll away from you to fully and tightly enclose the cylinder in plastic.
Twist the ends of the plastic to seal. Using another 12-inch square of plastic wrap, form the remaining meat mixture in the same way, enclosing the remaining 2 hard-cooked eggs inside. Set both cylinders on a large, flat plate or tray and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
When you are ready to cook the meat loaves, in a large Dutch oven over medium, heat the 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the onion, bell pepper, bay, minced garlic, remaining ½ teaspoon paprika, ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, 8 to 11 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the alcohol evaporates, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and 1 cup water; bring to a simmer, then cover and set aside while you bread and brown the loaves.
Have ready the cracker crumbs in the pie plate. In another pie plate or similar dish, beat the remaining raw egg with a fork. Unwrap the meat loaves. Place 1 loaf in the cracker crumbs and carefully turn to coat on all sides. Transfer to the beaten egg and turn to coat, then coat again with cracker crumbs, gently pressing to adhere. Return the breaded loaf to the plate. Bread the second loaf in the same way.
Return the sauce, covered, to a simmer over low. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the ¼ cup oil until shimmering. Add the loaves and cook, carefully rotating them with a wide metal spatula about every minute, until golden brown all around, about 5 minutes total; reduce the heat as needed if the loaves are browning too quickly. Using the spatula and tongs, transfer the loaves from the skillet to the Dutch oven, nestling them into the sauce and spooning some sauce over the top. Cover, bring to a simmer over medium-low and cook for 15 minutes.
Carefully turn the loaves in the sauce, re-cover and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing to low as the sauce thickens, until the center of each loaf reaches 160°F, another 10 to 15 minutes. (Ours took a total of 25 minutes more after turning to come to 160°.) Remove the pot from the heat, uncover and let rest for about 10 minutes.
Transfer the loaves to a cutting board. Remove and discard the bay from the sauce. If the sauce is thin, bring to a simmer over medium and cook, stirring often, until slightly thickened, 2 to 4 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Cut the loaves into 1-inch slices. Spoon some sauce onto a serving platter, place the slices on top and serve with the remaining sauce on the side.
A few years back, Fine Cooking published an article showcasing a variety of meatloaf recipes. It also instructed how to build your own loaf based on items from specific categories. From those, I made this rustic version, which is a blend of the two. It was surprisingly light and not dense as some meatloaves can be.
We also wanted a gravy, so, in lieu of a loaf pan, we cooked the meatloaf in a large, heated cast-iron skillet to facilitate browning on the bottom as well as the top and sides. When finished cooking, this provided some tasty drippings for the base of the gravy.
Of course, since this serves up to eight meals, we sliced one half for two separate dinners, freezing the other half for another time.
1/2 small fennel bulb, core removed and chopped small (save some fronds for garnish, if desired)
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine
4 oz. medium-coarse white bread, such as Italian or French, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 2-1/2 cups)
1 cup whole milk
2/3 lb. bulk sweet sausage
2/3 lb. ground beef
2/3 lb. ground veal
2 large eggs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
Pan drippings from meatloaf
4 Tbsp. butter
3 cups beef broth, heated
1 small shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 tsp. thyme, minced
6 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the onion, fennel and garlic, stirring frequently, until softened and just beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.
Add the white wine, and simmer briskly, until almost dry, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool until warm.
In a shallow dish that holds it in a single layer, soak the bread in the milk, flipping once, until soggy but not falling apart, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the coarseness and freshness of the bread. Lightly squeeze a handful of bread at a time to remove some of the milk (it should be wet but not drenched). Finely chop and add to the bowl with the onion mixture.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
Add the beef, veal, and sausage and eggs to the onion mixture. Scatter the Parmigiano, and parsley over the meat, and then sprinkle with the Worcestershire, 2-1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Use your hands to gently mix all the ingredients until just combined; try not to compact the mixture as you do this.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large cast-iron skillet. Form a rectangular block from the meatloaf mixture that will fit into your skillet. Carefully transfer the meatloaf into the hot skillet and put the skillet into the preheated oven. Bake until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F in the center of the meatloaf, 40 to 55 minutes. (Ours was done at 45 minutes.) Remove the meatloaf to a platter and cover with foil while you make the gravy.
Add enough butter to the pan drippings to equal 6 tablespoons. (We had 2 tablespoons in the pan so we added 4 tablespoons of butter.) Sauté the minced shallot in the fat and drippings until it softens.
Add garlic and thyme and sauté another 30 seconds.
Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in hot broth and Worcestershire sauce. Scrape up any browned bits and smooth out lumps.
Simmer gravy 10-15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Arrange 1-inch slabs of meatloaf on the platter, top with gravy. Serve extra gravy at the dinner table.
The beauty of this meatloaf and gravy is that they share several essential ingredients: mushrooms, dry sherry and garlic. While this recipe uses just ground pork and veal, if all you can get your hands on is the meatloaf mix combo, go ahead, the flavor profile won’t be too heavily altered.
Soaking the bread in the milk gives the meatloaf its tender texture. The bread should be wet but not drenched, so squeeze it gently to remove excess liquid. Then chop it all up into very small pieces. You don’t want big hunks of bread marring the perfect loaf.
This ridiculously flavorful vegetarian gravy will satisfy even the heartiest meat-eaters. Along with sherry and tomato paste, dried porcini mushrooms (available in the produce sections of large supermarkets) replicate the savory flavor of drippings. It has to be up there as one of the best gravies we’ve ever had!
*1 cup porcini soaking liquid from rehydrating above mushrooms
3 large thyme sprigs
6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper
Rehydrate porcini mushrooms by pouring 1 cup of boiling water over them in a heat-proof bowl. Let soak 15 minutes. Drain liquid into 1 cup measure, squeezing porcinis over container to remove all liquid. Strain through a very fine sieve to remove any grit from liquid, and set aside. (Add more water if necessary to equal 1 full cup.)
In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat.
Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic; cook 1 minute more.
Add tomato paste; cook, stirring until color deepens, about 2 minutes.
Add sherry; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced slightly, about 3 minutes.
Add broth, strained mushroom liquid, rehydrated mushrooms and thyme sprigs; bring to a boil. Simmer 15 minutes.
Strain again through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids (discard solids). Do not wash pan.
Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in the same saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; cook, whisking, 1 to 2 minutes (don’t let flour brown).
Add about 1/2 cup of the hot broth, whisking to blend. Add remaining broth a bit at a time, whisking until mixture is smooth. Season with pepper.
Folks in much of the U.S. start to breathe a sigh of relief as the temps and humidity become more humane. With the welcome respite, we start craving comfort foods that haven’t made appearances on our dinner table since the early Spring. Meatloaf comes to mind as one of those cool-weather comfort foods, and here’s one with a local twist: Philly Cheesesteak Meatloaf.
I found this recipe on dinnerthendessert.com and decided it was worth a try, after all Philadelphia is our “mother” city, the place we refer to when on vacay and asked where we call home. It contains not only ground beef but green bell peppers, onions and mushrooms, and is topped and stuffed with provolone cheese. Not exactly haute cuisine, but certainly worth a try. And BTW, it is fantastic leftover!
Typically I like to serve mashed potatoes with meatloaf, but The Hubs suggested we pair it with a Farmers Market Ratatouille recipe found in our latest issue of Fine Cooking magazine. It is an example of simple food, prepared in a way to let humble ingredients shine that gets even tastier as it sits. You could even make it the day before, let the flavors meld in the refrigerator and reheat it when ready. A win-win in my book.
For a touch more depth of flavor, I included 1 teaspoon dried oregano, two dried bay leaves and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Keep in mind, the ratatouille is done in a slow cooker and takes over 6 hours total including the prep, so plan ahead. But you will love it because it’s rich in flavor, gluten-free, vegetarian, and absolutely delicious! If you have a non-meat eater in the household, they could make this their main course along with a hefty slice of crusty bread.
The directions instruct to employ a 6-quart slow cooker. We used our 7-quart model and it was filled to the brim initially, but everything cooked down to about half by the end. So you might want to start with a larger cooker if you have one. Oh, and feel free to throw in any errant veggies you may have lurking in the fridge. We had one cooked ear of corn, so I shaved off the kernels and threw them in for the last several minutes before the basil.
1 medium eggplant, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 medium Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch dice
1 medium yellow summer squash, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch dice
2 dried bay leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lightly packed cup thinly sliced basil
Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic, remove from the heat, and let cool 5 minutes
Stir in the tomato paste until smooth.
Combine all of the prepped veggies (except the basil) in a 6-qt. (or larger) slow cooker. Add the tomato paste mixture, bay leaves, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; stir well.
Cover and cook on low until the vegetables are tender, about 5 hours.
Remove the lid, and continue cooking until some of the liquid evaporates, about 30-45 minutes.
Stir in the basil, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve or cool and refrigerate until ready to eat.