Adapted from "The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century" by Amanda Hesser
This surprisingly light meatloaf is absolutely delicious. Wilted spinach, meat, flavorings, and fresh breadcrumbs are tossed together, patted into a loaf pan, topped with bacon, and baked.
When CHOW’s Jill Santopietro made this recipe for the first time in the CHOW Cooks from Books video series, she had some ideas for changing it up—so this is her version. Plus, in its original form in The Essential New York Times Cookbook, it was called Meat and Spinach Loaf—not a very appealing name!
Game plan: To make the fresh breadcrumbs, cut or tear the bread into rough 1-inch pieces. Place them in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and process to the desired texture, about 1 minute.
You’ll need to make the tomato sauce before you begin, if using.
- 1 pound fresh bunched spinach tough stems removed, or 1 (10-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
- 1 1/4 pounds ground veal, pork, or beef, or a combination of all three
- 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (from a 1- to 2-inch-thick slice of Italian batard, crust removed)
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup small-dice celery (from about 2 medium stalks)
- 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion (from 1/2 medium onion)
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 bacon slices
- Tomato sauce, warmed, for serving (optional; see Game Plan note)
- 1Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
- 2Rinse the spinach well in cold water and drain. Place in a large frying pan, cover, and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. (It is not necessary to add liquid; the spinach will cook in the water clinging to the leaves.)
- 3Transfer the spinach to a colander and douse with cold water to chill. Drain and press with your hands to extract most of the moisture. Coarsely chop the spinach.
- 4Place the meat in a large bowl, followed by the chopped spinach, breadcrumbs, garlic, measured salt and pepper, and nutmeg (no need to mix yet); set aside.
- 5Place the celery, parsley, and milk in a blender and blend until puréed. Add to the meat mixture.
- 6Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat until foaming. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add to the meat mixture.
- 7Add the eggs to the meat mixture and, using clean hands, mix everything until evenly combined (don’t squeeze or overwork the mixture). If desired, test for seasoning by forming a small patty and cooking it in the small skillet over medium heat until no longer pink inside. Taste the patty and add more salt and pepper to the meat mixture as needed. Repeat the seasoning test as needed.
- 8Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, spread to the edges, and smooth out the top. Cover the meatloaf with the bacon slices, laying them lengthwise and side by side.
- 9Bake in the oven until just cooked through, turning the pan 180 degrees halfway through, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Pour off the excess fat and let the meatloaf stand for 20 minutes before slicing. If you choose, serve with tomato sauce.
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