This luxurious yet easy take on classic meat loaf gets stuffed with spinach, carrots, prosciutto and cheese. The vegetables can be leftovers, says Mario Batali: "Just make sure they're cooked long enough to be very soft—if they're al dente, the meat loaf will tear when you slice it and wreck your day." Mild and tangy caciocavallo cheese, made in Italy from cow's milk, is excellent in the filling, but provolone is a fine substitute.
"This is a culmination of all the meat loaves I've ever eaten," says Andrew Curren, chef-partner of 24 Diner in Austin. "My mom always made a good meat loaf—it never had the tomato goo on top of it. Then I tasted a meat loaf that had cheese in it; that was a good idea. In Italy, I was introduced to soffritto and realized the importance of cooking with carrots, onion, celery." Curren serves the meat loaf with creamy gravy, which is also excellent on lunchtime meat loaf sandwiches.
Marcia Kiesel’s sister Susie created this recipe one day when she was craving meat loaf but didn’t want to turn on the oven. The delicious individual meat loaves—made with just six ingredients and stuffed with cubes of fresh mozzarella that become warm and gooey—cook directly on the grill for less than 10 minutes.
To make juicy meatballs, Andrew Carmellini mixes ground pork loin and jowl with pancetta and nearly 20 other ingredients. He then braises the meatballs in a spicy tomato-chickpea sauce. At home, mix the meat in a food processor, leaving out the pork jowl and about a dozen other ingredients. Instead of meatballs, which require time to form, shape the meat into loaves then cook them in a spicy tomato sauce blended with prepared hummus.
David Burke prepares what he calls "the world's smallest meat loafs" hors d’oeuvres-style, often doctoring each with duck liver and white truffles and serving them alongside a sweet potato-vanilla puree. For a simpler version, Burke bakes a simple ground-beef mixture in the oven, setting it between slices of bread to soak up all of the savory meat drippings. Then he slathers each sandwich with a supersimple chipotle-mayonnaise sauce.