Polpetone and Baked Ziti

Okay, okay, okay! So if the poetry was too much to bear for you hungry hearts, here’s a recipe for Polpetone (one large meatball or meatloaf Italian style) followed by Baked Ziti.
Great to eat after reading poetry!

Polpetone

2 lbs lean chopped beef (add more if not using other meat)
¼ – ½ lb chopped veal (optional)
¼ – ½ lb chopped pork (optional)
3 eggs
½ loaf of hard Italian bread loaf—soaked in water, but squeeze excess water out!
(some people use milk)
¾ cup parmigiano grated
¾ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons red tomato sauce—home made or otherwise
3 cloves of minced garlic
½ large or 1 small minced onion
salt, pepper to taste
fresh parsley
1 teaspoon of oregano
3 hard cooked eggs, if desired

salt and pepper to taste

In a large baking pan place a little olive oil and then form the meatloaf, and if desired, distribute the hard cooked eggs in the middle—whole—so that when you slice the meat, you’ll see the egg in the center!

I like to place sliced potatoes and sliced onions around it and on top and then drench the meat with tomato sauce and drizzle some olive oil all over it and on the potatoes and onions—remember to season the vegetables also.

Place in a hot, preheated oven (450) to bake, and lightly cover with a tent of aluminum foil for 10 minutes. Remove the cover and reduce the heat to 350 for 35-45 minutes. If desired, you can toast it a little bit at the end of the cooking—last 5-10 minutes—put up the heat high to broil a few minutes longer. (Remember in high altitudes you need to cook for a longer period of time.)

What’s nice about this dish is–if there’s any meat leftover you can break it up and use it for a bastardized shepherd’s pie with other veggies and covered with mashed and smashed potatoes—or use the meat in a lasagna or baked pasta dish, sans pommes de terre! which is what I did precisely over the holidays. (See the Baked Ziti dish below )

Baked Ziti for a large crowd—we were 15 seated for Christmas! (but it’s not the way my Grandma made it!)

Ingredients:

3 pounds of slightly undercooked Ziti (cool immediately)

6 pounds of sauce—I made a meat sauce into which I put lamb chops, beef fillet, or steak, and skinny Sicilian sausages—hot and sweet, country style pork ribs and pork fillet. No, I don’t know how much I used, but it was a lot! Say a total of 7-8 lbs of meat. The meat is braised first (unless of course you have some already cooked meat or cooked and frozen to add to your sauce.

1 cup grated and/or 1 cup shaved parmigiano (if you have both, use both, if not add more grated!)

3 lbs of ricotta beaten with two eggs

½ quart of heavy cream

1 lb to 1 & ½ lbs of grated mozzarella or cut up fresh—do not use buffalo—too expensive if not eating it fresh and the taste will be masked by the other cheeses anyway, and it also kicks out too much liquid!

Steps involved:
1. In a huge baking pan, coat the bottom with sauce, but no meat. Place a fat layer of pasta and cover with mozzarella, parmigiano and sauce. Be generous—the more you put in, the more you will find to taste!

2. Another layer of pasta, cover with the ricotta mix and meat from the sauce and the leftover polpatone—which means, large meatball—or meatloaf—as discussed above. Cover with grated cheese and sauce and some cream.

3. ETC! all the way to the top–you can mix and combine any of the layers–you can’t make a mistake if you use all good ingredients! and then cover with sauce and grated cheese and mozzarella.

Bake in a heated oven lightly covered with a tent for 35 minutes on high (400 degrees) and then uncovered under the broiler for 10 minutes or until the top is crispy crusty.

Remove and let stand to cool at least 10 minutes before cutting. Always serve with extra sauce and cheese for those who care to overdo it.