Polpettone al Sugo


Polpettone translates into “large meatball” in English .  If one is not familiar with how polpettone actually looks, visions of a mega meatball sitting on a plate may readily come to mind.

Shaping the meat into a loaf works best for even cooking and  easy slicing to say nothing of the wonders it does for presentation. As children we always regarded it as Italian meatloaf when my mother made it “al sugo” or in tomato sauce.

Ham and cheese, the traditional choice are layered on a flattened meatball mixture, rolled up and seared until golden.  It’s then added to a simmering pot of fragrant tomato sauce until cooked through.

Although it was not customary for my mother to add a row of whole hard boiled eggs in the center of the loaf it is totally permitted and looks very interesting when sliced.  I just may give it a try sometime!

When you feel you’ve made one meatball too many, polpettone is a good alternative.

It’s usually served as part of a second course with a fresh crisp salad on the side.  That would be right after the first course pasta dish covered with that delicious tomato sauce which has taken on all the flavour of that tasty meat loaf.

Leftovers?  Polpettone takes a meatball sub to the next level!

Polpettone al Sugo

These listed quantities of ingredients are just a guideline and don’t have to be exact.  If you already have a favourite meatball recipe feel free to use it.

I like to make 2 smaller polpettone out of this recipe instead of one larger one,  it’s just a matter of preference.

1 ½ pounds ground pork or a combination of your favourite meat

1 egg, beaten

½ cup grated cheese

1 slice soft, white or whole wheat bread, coarsely grated moistened with 2 to 3 tablespoons milk.

about 2 tablespoons fresh minced Italian parsley

salt and pepper to taste

enough thinly sliced ham to cover surface of meat mixture

extra cheese, parsley, pepper and salt to sprinkle onto center of loaf

  1. Mix together ground meat, egg, cheese, moistened bread crumbs, parsley, salt and pepper until well blended.
  2. On a piece of plastic wrap, flatten mixture with hands into a rectangle to about ¾ inch thickness.
  3. Place a layer of ham over the meat mixture.
  4. Sprinkle with grated cheese, pepper and minced Italian parsley.  Depending on saltiness of the ham salt may not be required.
  5. Starting at short end of meat, roll into a log, close off ends.
  6. Tightly roll log in the plastic wrap and secure the ends. Refrigerate until ready to use, can also be made the day before.
  7. Heat skillet with a small amount of vegetable oil and sear rolling it around until all sides are golden.
  8. Add to favourite tomato sauce and simmer until cooked through, this depends on size of polpettone approximately 45 to 60 minutes.
  9. Remove from sauce, let rest for a few minutes, slice and serve.
  10. Serve tomato sauce over pasta.

Place ground meat, cheese, softened bread crumbs, Italian parsley, egg, salt and pepper into a bowl.


Mix ingredients well.


Place mixture on a sheet of plastic wrap and with hand flatten into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick.


Layer ham then sprinkle with cheese, Italian parsley and pepper to taste.  Depending on saltiness of ham additional salt may not be required.


Starting at short end and using the plastic wrap to guide, roll into a loaf shape.


Seal ends to contain the filling.


Roll tightly in plastic wrap, twist ends closed.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  Can also be made the day before.


Sear loaf in a lightly oiled skillet making sure to brown all sides.


Add to simmering tomato sauce until cooked through.  Two smaller loaves made from this recipe cooked for about 50 minutes.



Notes, Tips and Suggestions

  • The addition of the moistened soft bread in milk ensures a moist, softer loaf.
  • Use favourite cheese, Parmiggiano Reggiano or Peccorino works well.  A layer of mozzarella along with the grated cheese is also an option but make sure to seal the loaf well so the mozzarella doesn’t escape.
  •  Black Forest Ham works well in this recipe but any favourite ham thinly sliced will do.

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