Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Roman Roll

Roman Roll - Stuffed Meatloaf

This is a perfect casual main course to serve friends on a cold winter night. The aromas coming from your kitchen will have your guests anticipating great things and when you sit down to eat they will not be disappointed! Make sure your guests are all good friends – there’s a lot of garlic in this dish!

This is a close cousin to a meatloaf, but the ingredients and preparation are different enough to make this dish stand out. Typically, I use at least two kinds of ground meat in a meatloaf; combining beef and pork and sometimes adding lamb. This roll uses just ground beef and pretty lean beef at that. Adding Italian ham makes the boldest flavor statement by bringing a Mediterranean zing and a little added moisture. I also serve this with a slightly sweet and very light marinara instead of the thick caramelized sauces usually associated with meatloaves. Lastly it’s just not a loaf, freeform or otherwise – it is a roll.

Now for the similarity to meatloaf – the leftovers, if there are any, make great sandwiches. The roll won’t slice as thinly as a loaf but once it’s between two slices of bread, who cares what it looks like!

Why a Roman Roll you ask?  Reason #1 is the use of prosciutto, often found in Roman cooking. Reason #2 is the alliteration – it just sounds as good as it tastes.

Roman Roll
Yield: 8 Servings      Preparation Time: 30 Minutes      Cooking Time: 1 Hour 40 Minutes


• 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
• 1 Small White Onion, finely chopped
• 4 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
• 2 Cloves Garlic, mashed into a paste with ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
• 1 Cup Dry Red Wine
• 3 Pounds Roma Tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scooped out.
• 1½ Teaspoon Dried Oregano
• 1 Teaspoon + 1 Tablespoon Dried Parsley
• ¼ Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
• ¾ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
• ½ Teaspoon Granulated Sugar
• ½ Teaspoon Dried Basil
• 2 Eggs, slightly beaten
• ¾ Cup Bread Crumbs
• ½ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
• 2 Pounds Ground Sirloin
• 6 Ounces Prosciutto, thinly sliced
• 1¾ Cups Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
• ⅓ Pound Baby Spinach, washed and patted dry
• Shaved Parmesan

Preparation Steps

Step 1. Set a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the oil to the hot pan. Add the onion and the chopped garlic and cook until onion is soft then add the wine and cook until reduced by half.

Step 2. Add tomatoes, cut side down and cook without disturbing until skins loosen and can be pulled off and discarded.

Step 3. Transfer one fourth of the cooked tomatoes, without any onion or garlic, to a deep bowl and process with a stick blender just until crushed. Reserve ½ cup of the crushed tomatoes and return the rest to the sauté pan to finish cooking. At this point you can chop the remaining half tomatoes if you like a less chunky sauce – I prefer to let them fall apart themselves.    

Step 4. Add 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon parsley, the red pepper flakes, salt and sugar to the marinara and cook for an additional 10 minutes then cover and set aside off heat. Preparations up to this point can be done a day or two in advance. In that case, refrigerate the marinara and the reserved crushed tomatoes.

Step 5. Preheat oven to 350°F and spread an 18” x 15” piece of parchment paper on work surface. 

Step 6. In a mortar and pestle, crush together 1 tablespoon parsley, ½ teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon basil then combine with the reserved ½ cup of crushed tomatoes, eggs, bread crumbs, black pepper and garlic paste in a large mixing bowl. Add sirloin and mix with your hands until the tomato and breadcrumb mixture is evenly dispersed throughout the meat. Be careful not to over work the meat!

Step 7. Spread the sirloin mixture on the parchment to form a 14” x 10” rectangle. Lay 6 ounces of the prosciutto slices on top of the meat, leaving a 1” border on the top 10” edge and on the two 14” edges. Spread the spinach over the prosciutto and then sprinkle 1½ cups of the mozzarella over the spinach. Starting from the bottom 10” side, carefully roll up meat, using the parchment to assist you. Press the meat together to seal the seam and the ends and place the roll, seam side down, in a 13” x 9” x 2” baking pan lined with aluminum foil. 

Step 8. Bake for l hour then sprinkle remaining ¼ cup of mozzarella over top of roll and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Reheat the marinara over low heat for serving. Remove the roll from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing into ½” thick slices.

Serve the sliced meat on top of a pool of the marinara and topped with shaved parmesan.

Tips and Trending

~ Sirloin is typically 90% lean and I wouldn’t recommend any leaner. (I’ve used good 85% lean chuck with excellent results.) Also, look for prosciutto with a good marbling of fat to keep the roll moist.

~ Pasta is the perfect accompaniment to this. While the meat roll is baking, I like to make a thin spaghetti tossed with a little garlic and olive oil (Aglio e Olio) and topped with toasted pinenuts (pinoli) and crisped prosciutto. You’ll need to think ahead and buy an extra slice or two of the prosciutto. First dry toast the pine nuts in a large sauté pan or skillet. Remove them to a bowl to cool and then fry up the prosciutto crisp, like bacon, in the same pan. Remove the prosciutto to a paper towel and add ⅓ cup of olive oil to the pan. Drop in 6 thinly sliced cloves of garlic and gently warm the oil over low heat for 2 minutes. Continue heating the oil until the garlic sizzles around the edges but don’t let it brown. Remove from the heat and take the garlic out and mince it. Cook your pasta until al dente, and then instead of draining it, use a pair of tongs to move the dripping wet pasta into the sauté pan with the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and toss. Plate the pasta and top with the toasted pine nuts and crumble the prosciutto over it all. Or just toss the cooked pasta with some of the marinara and call it a day!

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