Jim Dixon DIY Dish: Polpettone

You call it meatloaf, I call it polpettone. It sounds much better than meatloaf. And it tastes better, too.

Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business, Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.


You call it meatloaf, I call it polpettone.

Pronounced pole-pay-Tone-a, it sounds much better than meatloaf. And it tastes better, too. If you’ve only experienced meatloaf as a dense, beefy brick, this lighter, Italian-inspired version will come as a surprise.

The key is using lots of vegetables, about as much volume-wise as the ground meat. And while I call for a mix of beef and pork, the recipe works with a single meat or any combination. If you prefer meatballs (polpette, in Italian) just form the mix into spheres and bake them.

I use a food processor to get the vegetables into small, evenly-sized pieces. If you don’t have one, just chop everything into as small as you can, about an eighth of an inch bits. To make your own bread crumbs, cut a few slices of good bread into cubes and let them dry out for a day or two, or pop them into the oven to speed things up.

And feel free to add other ingredients from the Italian pantry, like capers, chopped olives, or sun-dried tomatoes. Fresh rosemary would be good, and the ultimate polpettone would have some mortadella, sliced about a quarter inch thick and cut into small cubes. Both Olympia Provisions and Laurelhurst Market make good versions, but most delis will have it.

¾ lb ground beef

¾ lb ground pork

1 carrot

1 celery stalk

1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic

¼ head green cabbage

½ cup bread crumbs

3 eggs

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

½ teaspoon each thyme and oregano

1 teaspoon sea salt

Even an Italian meatloaf requires a classic ketchup glaze

½ cup ketchup

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoon maple syrup

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Chop the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and cabbage coarsely, then blitz the pieces in a food processor until they’re finely chopped. Cook them in the olive oil for about 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.

To make the glaze, combine the ketchup, vinegar and maple syrup in a small pan. Heat it gently until it boils, then remove from the heat.

Combine the ground meat with the rest of the ingredients in a bowl, then add the cooked vegetables. Mix well, then cook a spoonful in a skillet, taste it, and add more salt if necessary.

Transfer the mixture to a 10-inch cast iron skillet or a sheet pan, and use a spoon to form a freestyle loaf about 4 inches wide and 2-3 inches tall. Bake for about 45 minutes or to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Pour the glaze over the cooked polpettone, turn the oven up to 400 degrees, and bake for about 15 minutes to set the glaze. Remove and let cool for 10-15 minutes before slicing.