Yesterday, I was inspired to make a dish from my new "Cooking Pleasures" magazine when I saw this recipe. I was also inspired to use ingredients already on hand, so I didn't have to make a wasteful trip to the market for one or two items! I used turkey instead of ground beef, added ground fennel seeds to replace sausage, and used one of our favorite cheeses, Handmade English Cheese with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, in place of Fontina. The result: a tangy, succulent meat loaf that was fine-textured and fit for serving to guests in the future! The truth is, it's almost impossible for me to make a recipe as written! Ron calls me his "custom" girl. So go ahead, experiment with your own version of this masterpiece.
STUFFED ITALIAN TURKEY MEAT LOAF
½ teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup finely chopped onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup milk
1-1/2 lb. ground turkey
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 oz. Handmade English cheese with sun-dried tomatoes, crumbled
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped carrot
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 (14.5-oz.) can tomato sauce
1/3 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Heat ½ teaspoon olive oil in tiny pan over medium heat. Add fennel seeds and sauté 2-3 minutes until seeds turn brown but not burned. Remove from heat. Place a paper towel over a small plate and add seeds from pan, patting with towel to blot excess oil. Transfer seeds to mortar/pestle and grind thoroughly. Set aside.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons garlic; cook 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add onions, cook 4 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat.
3. Combine bread crumbs and milk in large bowl; let stand 15 minutes. When onion-garlic sauté is cool, gently combine all remaining meat loaf ingredients with bread crumbs.
4. Form half of the mixture into 9x9-inch baking pan. Arrange cheese in center of meat, leaving 1-inch border on edges. Cover with remaining meat mixture, seal edges.
5. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160°F. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.6. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until hot. Cook carrot, shallots and 2 teaspoons garlic, uncovered, 6 to 10 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally. Add red wine, basil, salt and pepper. Stir in tomato sauce; reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Serve warm over meat loaf.
Chef’s Notes: I like to make all my red sauces in advance so they simmer for at least an hour, infusing all the tangy flavors together. Also, if you can’t get Handmade English cheese with sun-dried tomatoes, try substituting your favorite, Provolone, Fontina, or another cheese, and add in chopped sun-dried tomatoes!