I have no idea why this recipe translates to stuffed meatballs. Because this really isn’t a meatball…. If it was, it would be a meatball fit for a giant! This recipe is more of a stuffed meatloaf.
It’s more than that though… when I think of a stuffed meatloaf I picture a mass of meat with some cream cheese in the middle. Don’t get me wrong, that can be delicious, but this is a spiral of ground beef, spinach, carrots, bacon, and cheese. It is a show stopper.
It’s not easy though… In fact this is probably one of the hardest dishes I have ever made. It has been a source of many tears in my kitchen.
I first came across this recipe in the Food Network Favorites: Recipes From Our All-Star Chefs Cookbook. It (of course) belongs to Mario Batali. The recipe intrigued me immediately and it didn’t even have a photo! (unless you count the tiny thumb nail of it being rolled in the upper corner). I had never seen ground beef treated that way – I would never of thought of rolling it thin.
While I love Mario’s recipe, as I mentioned above, it is not simple to make. Lucky for you I have made this several times, found all the pit falls, and have solutions that take this dish from a teary eyed disaster waiting to happen to guaranteed home run.
The biggest issues with Mario’s version has to do with rolling out the meat, the size of the loaf, and flipping it around in the pan.
First, Mario has you roll out the meat using only flour to smooth the process. This is impossible. Not only will you get a sticky meaty mess all over your hands and rolling pin, but it will be impossible to pick it up off the counter. Plus you will use so much flour the loaf will be closer a loaf of bread than dinner.
The solution? Sandwich your meat mixture between two pieces of plastic wrap. Voila! You will now effortlessly be able to roll out the meat with no mess! Even better, the plastic wrap helps tremendously when it is time to roll up the meatloaf. Just use it to gently glide the meat over itself.
The other issues have to do with the size. Mario recommends a 16 inch loaf. I don’t know about you, but I don’t even have a pan big enough to fry that.
But even if you do have a pan that will work, when the loaf is this big you run into problems flipping it around to brown on all sides. The loaf becomes extremely delicate at this size and is likely to break apart as you turn it. Plus it is pretty hilarious trying to do the flipping – I found myself using two spatulas and a pair of tongs… I only have two hands, you do the math….
The solution to this issue is pretty obvious – make two smaller loafs instead of one big one. My recipe will make 2 6-inch loaves, instead of one 16-inch one. By reducing the size you are also decreasing the weight allowing you to easily brown the loaf on all sides.
Another option could be to create individual stuffed meatloaves. This recipe can also yield 4 3-inch loaves.
- 1 pound ground beef
- ½ cup Italian bread crumbs
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons salt and pepper
- 20 to 30 fresh spinach leaves
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin slices
- 6 pieces cooked bacon
- 6 slices Swiss cheese
- 3 tablespoons cornmeal
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-2 sprigs of rosemary
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 cup beef stock
- In a large bowl, combine the beef, breadcrumbs, cheese, egg, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly, set aside.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add in a big pinch of salt. Add the carrot slices to the boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until tender. Remove from water and set aside.
- Lay out a piece of plastic wrap (at least 8 inches long) on a clean counter. Pile half of the meat mixture on top. Cover with another piece of plastic wrap just as large as the first piece. Using a rolling pin, roll the meat into a ½ inch thick rectangle about 6 inches long and 4-5 inches wide. Remove top layer of plastic wrap.
- Lay half of the spinach leaves, carrots, bacon, and cheese over the meat, making sure to leave a ¾ inch border along the sides. Carefully roll the meat into a jellyroll, keeping it as firm and tight as possible. Round the corners with your hands and carefully seal all edges so the cheese and filling won’t ooze out during cooking. Repeat with other half of meat and fillings.
- Sprinkle cornmeal and 3 tablespoons of flour on top of each roll and spread around the entire roll with your hands. This will help give the meat loaf a crispy coating.
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and rosemary and stir to flavor the oil. Add in one of the meatloaves and brown meat on all sides. Be careful when turning it, use a tongs or a spatula. When the meat is brown, remove from the pan and brown the second one (you may need to add more olive oil) and remove that one from the pan when it is fully browned. Note: you are just browning the meat, don’t worry about it bring fully cooked yet.
- Pour out any excess oil and remove the rosemary strand from the pan. Add in butter and allow to melt, then stir in 2 tablespoons of flour. Pour in wine and beef stock and stir until a sauce comes together. Add meatloaves back to the pan, cover, and cook over medium-low heat for 15 -20 minutes, stirring the sauce and flipping the meatloaves occasionally.
- When you are ready to eat, transfer the meat rolls of a cutting board and cut into thin slices. Serve with meat glaze drizzled over.