Polpettone alla ricotta

It's been just a little over a month since my nonno passed away, and unsurprisingly, it hasn't been easy. We're all still grief-stricken and heartbroken and trying to figure out what life without him -- the family patriarch, constant and steady and wise and loving -- is going to look like. We're wobbly and unsure as we take our first steps in life without him here, and we're all trying our best to adjust to this new reality. 

My grandfather -- great entrepreneur that he was! -- launched a recipe contest in the 1960s to promote the mozzarella and ricotta that his business produced. He asked all of New England to send in there best recipes made with Supreme Dairy products, and he, the company founder, would not only choose a winning recipe, he would also compile the best recipes and put them in to a Supreme Dairy cookbook. The resulting book was given to me by my nonno five or six years ago, and now resides here with me in Rome (you may remember it from this post here, actually). It is a compilation of very Italian recipes (cappelletti, cannoli) and very Italo-American recipes (veal parmesan) and some very, very '60s era recipes (frozen cheese and pineapple salad, anyone?!). The winning recipe, in all this, was a humble but tasty meatloaf with ricotta.

It turns out the award winning meatloaf plays a role in one of my father's many memories of my nonno, wherein his 12 year old self was greatly opposed to my grandfather's choice -- really, meatloaf?! -- and remembers the conversation was put to rest with  decisive and unintentionally comical "THE MEATLOAF WINS! MEATLOAF IS THE FINAL DECISION!" from my grandfather. My dad called recently and asked if I could check my cookbook for the recipe, whenever I had a moment, which proved difficult given the state of my (half un-packed) apartment, a jungle of suitcases and odds and ends and boxes of many unpacked books heaped all together. I looked for my grandfather's book everywhere, but with no luck. "I can't find the book," I wrote to my dad. "Give me a second."

Long story short: I went in to my room, said out loud to my grandfather "I'm going to need that book of yours, okay?" (because I've found that talking to him sometimes is comforting, and Igues just part of the grieving process) and though I am generally not the kind of person to believe in this stuff, returned to my stack of many books a few minutes later, chose one book at random, and lo and behold, my little Supreme Dairy Cookbook fell right out. I burst in to tears, cried for a while, but also felt incredibly comforted, because -- and call me crazy if you want -- for a second there I felt that my nonno had heard me and was right there with me. It felt like someone had given me a big hug or a warm blanket or just a sign it was all going to be okay, really, and it was beyond reassuring. 

Naturally then, I had to make the winning meatloaf.

My dad was right -- meatloaf isn't always the most exciting dish -- but my grandfather was also right, because this is not just any meatloaf. It's ultra flavorful (Parmesan! onion! parsley!) and juicy and tender and best of all, its filled with ricotta, more in line with the Italian polpettone than the typical American meatloaf. It was delicious with broccoli saltati and roasted potatoes but serve it with whatever you wish for the coziest dinner you've had for a while. I'm with my nonno on this one (sorry, dad!) Meatloaf (or polpettone) wins!

A couple of notes: I used sheep's milk ricotta from my local cheese shop that was delicious but any kind of ricotta will do here, even ricotta from your local supermarket (like Supreme Dairy ricotta!) I found this to be an excellent recipe, but it was a little vague, as you can see; I found that in a 9x4x2 inch loaf pan you could make one meatloaf plus another smaller one; the cooking time was more than 25 minutes, more like 45; the quantity of the ricotta could probably be cut down on. Still here I've made the recipe as written in the cookbook, and I leave it up to you to make any little adjustments you see fit. 

Looking for other recipes with ricotta? I've got this ricotta pound cake, these ricotta and raspberry scones, this homemade ricotta, this lemon and ricotta cake, this crostata di ricotta, these polpette di ricotta, this torta di ricotta, and these castagnole di ricotta. Also, I've got this recipe for a more classic polpettone on here, too.

Serves 4. Recipe from the Supreme Dairy Cookbook.

1 pound (500 grams) ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup breadcrumbs, plus a little extra
1/2 cup (50 grams) grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped 
3 eggs
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup (120 mL) water
3/4 pound (300 grams) ricotta

In a large bowl, mix together the beef, onion, breadcrumbs, 2 of the eggs, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the water, salt, pepper and the cheese. In another bowl mix together the remaining egg, parsley, the ricotta. Grease a large loaf pan with some olive oil and then sprinkle with breadcrumbs to coat, tilting the pan as you go to coat. Place half the meat mixture in the loaf pan, cover with some of the ricotta mixture -- you won't use it all -- and cover with the remaining meat mixture. Bake the polpettone for 45-55 minutes until browned on top and cooked throughout (the internal temperature should read 160 degrees Fahrenheit). Let cool slightly then serve. 


  1. Can't wait to get our own copy of that cookbook your "nonno" compilesd and published . My mom is 94 and still thrilled with learning the best recipes ! Such a beautiful story and family connection full if heart and love. It does change one's life just reading your family stories ! Bravo and thank you!
    Tom ( one of the your father's wine club gang! )

    1. Thank you so much for your kind message Tom! I will try and get you guys a copy of the Supreme Dairy Cookbook, if there are any others around!!

    2. Francesca,
      Your dad emailed me this recipe which I will be making for my own dad at some point. Sounds like an easy after work recipe to throw together (a must for me)! It was so nice to see your picture up in the corner. It sounds like you and Alex have a great place to live, work...Glad things worked out so well for you. Sorry to hear about your grandfather. I'm sure you have lots of good memories that will help you get through this rough time. Best to you both. Jean

  2. Francesca,

    Sorry to hear about your Nonno. Your uncle Tomasso came into the MainStreet Cafe in East Greenwich the day he passed (or the day after) and told me. I haven't seen your dad at the cafe in a long time. Hope he is doing ok.

    So the recipe says to put half of the meat filling in the loaf pan and then a layer of ricotta mixture and then bake, but it doesn't say to put the other half of the meat on top of the ricotta. The picture looks like there's meat on top of the ricotta as well as on the bottom. Just curious . . . meat on top?

    Barista, MainStreet Coffee

    1. Dear Michele, you're absolutely right! I have corrected the recipe now. Thank you so much for your message -- and I'll tell my dad you were asking for him! xo

  3. debra Colavecchio29 December 2019 at 08:14

    I am still in possession of this fabulous cook book from your nonno. Lucky me!!!!

  4. Debra Colavecchio30 December 2019 at 16:00

    made today and it does deserve its' place on the top five. Question? Used 2/3 of the ricotta mix and wished I used all as the layer of ricotta kind of shrunk to a mere slathering rather than the 1' thick layer between the top and bottom layers. Will make again for sure! Thanks