Are you hungry for pizza but don’t want to make a crust? This meatloaf combines the classic pizza flavors of tomato, mozzarella, basil and oregano with the juiciest meatloaf around. The meat is seasoned with Romano cheese and pancetta so there’s no need to use garlic or onions to get a savory depth of flavor. You can easily double or quadruple the recipe and cook or freeze the extra for future meals. Use the beef mixture to stuff bell peppers, make meatballs or whip up the best burger on the block. Or crumble it in a skillet and use the cooked meat in place of sausage in your favorite recipe.
I think you could substitute this for breakfast sausage as well. Based on another sausage recipe of mine, I would try adding 1/2 teaspoon dried sage, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/8 teaspoon thyme, and a dash of marjoram, then refrigerate the mixture overnight to let the flavors develop. If anyone tries this, let me know how it turns out.
The recipe calls for gluten-free bread crumbs, so either drop a couple of slices of commercial gluten-free bread in a food processor or make your own bread. My recipe for gluten-free pizza crust makes excellent bread crumbs. Although the recipe calls for cooking the batter on a panini press, you can cook it on a waffle iron or make pancakes (just don’t try eating them with syrup - this is a crusty flat bread, not a tender breakfast treat). Cool the bread on a wire rack before putting it in the food processor to make the crumbs. The extra bread crumbs will keep indefinitely in a zip lock bag in your freezer.
If you’re lactose intolerant, use aged mozzarella instead of fresh, as it has almost no lactose in it. Romano cheese also has very little lactose, so it’s also safe to eat. Most people with lactose intolerance can handle about 4 grams of lactose per serving of food without experiencing problems, according to “Food Intolerance Management Plan”, by Sue Shepherd. As always, only eat what your body can tolerate, and only you know what that is.
Guiuliano Hazan, the son of famed Italian cook Marcella Hazan, included the meatloaf part of the recipe in his cookbook, “Every Night Italian”, along with a handful of other recipes that are suitable for fructose malabsorbers. Most Italian food calls for lots of onion and garlic so I was pleasantly surprised to discover more Italian recipes that don’t. If you have a copy of the book, I particularly recommend “Chicken Braised with Tomatoes and Black Olives” and “Turkey Breast Fillets with Lemon and Olives” for minimum time and maximum flavor.
Italian Meatloaf, Meatballs or Burgers
Serves 6, adapted from “Every Night Italian”
1/4 cup (60 ml) gluten-free bread crumbs
2 tablespoons (30 ml) whole milk (lactose-free or regular)
1 pound (450 grams) ground beef, 85% lean makes the juiciest mix
1/2 cup (68 grams or 2 1/2 ounces) pecorino romano cheese, shredded
2 large eggs
2 ounces (56 grams) pancetta, thinly sliced and chopped
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425° F (220° C).
Stir the bread crumbs and milk together in a large bowl until a smooth paste forms. Add the beef, cheese, eggs, pancetta and a dash of salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix everything together thoroughly.
3/4 cup (180 ml) chopped, canned tomatoes, drained
4 ounces (112 grams) mozzarella, sliced into thin strips
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) dried basil
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) dried oregano
Butter the bottom and sides of a 10″ pie plate. Put the beef mixture into the pie plate and spread it evenly with your hands. Spread the tomatoes on top and arrange the mozzarella strips in a wagon wheel design. Sprinkle the basil and oregano over the cheese and bake for 20 minutes. Let the meatloaf rest for 5 minutes, then use 2 spatulas to transfer it to a serving plate.
Form the beef mixture into 1 1/2 inch meatballs and place them in a oven-safe pan. Bake for 5 minutes to firm up the meatballs. Transfer the meatballs and the pan drippings to a sauce pan and cover with tomato sauce (I like Italian brand Pomi the best). Season the sauce with fresh or dried basil and oregano, and let it simmer for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with gluten-free pasta and freshly grated Parmesan.
Form the beef mixture into patties and cook on the grill or in a skillet over medium-high heat for 6 to 8 minutes. Turn the patties once while cooking.