I love vacations, especially when they take you away from the depths of winter to hot sunny climates of the Caribbean. Having just returned from a cruise, I feel relaxed, energized and glowing from the sun’s rays I was able to catch for the week and a half I was at sea in the Atlantic ocean. The islands of the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, St Barts, Antigua, St Maarten and St Lucia were spectacular, and this time of year, allowed us to bask in very hot weather while our Canadian counterparts got to shovel lots of snow. As relaxing as it was, I actually looked forward to coming back home. It wasn’t the weather calling me back, but rather, the simple joys of a well established routine involving work, school schedules, piano class, and cooking on the weekends. We run a tight ship at home (pardon the pun), but it works. Weekdays are busy with pre-set activities, so the weekend affords us time to decompress, but it also involves regularly scheduled maintenance that is necessary to ensure success for the rest of the week. The weekly task of shopping, running errands, scheduling appointments, and preparing food may seem like a strict schedule (and in part, it is), but it’s one that allows us some freedom to relax during the evenings on weekdays when there is very little energy or desire to tackle anything more complex than the night’s tv schedule and some homework.
Saturdays always involve planning and cooking the family supper for that evening. Mornings allow for time to sift through cookbooks to determine what to make for dinner (not always an easy task, but a fun one nonetheless). The rest of the day is spent running errands, being active and setting up a late afternoon cocktail hour that signals time for a break and a wonderful meal to come. Sundays are all day baking and cooking sessions, so that Meat and Tater Man can pack his cooler full of ready made meals for the week while working out of town. The added benefit of all this single day cooking effort results in my being able to relax after work instead of toiling over the stove five nights a week to put something decent on the dinner table for myself and my daughter.
So, on our first weekend back from our trip, I wanted to cook my heart out, and I did! I settled on Nigella Lawson’s Meatzza recipe from her Italian themed cookbook, Nigellissima. She says that it was the most requested recipe from her family while writing that book, and I can see why. So easy to make, it’s essentially a basic Italian meatloaf topped with some tomatoes and cheese, and baked to perfection. The title of the recipe is in reference to the fact that it’s baked in a pie dish, and therefore reminds one of a pizza, only it’s meat based instead of dough based.
To accompany this wonderful main course, I decided on Lidia Bastianich’s recipe for pipette (or elbow) pasta with sweet potatoes, parsley and capers. Follow me tomorrow on The Lit Kitchen for the recipe!
This is Nigella Lawson's Meatzza recipe from her Italian inspired book, Nigellissima.
I have made a few substitutions, and all of them worked. I switched ground chicken for the ground beef, I used canned cherry tomatoes instead of the diced ones, and I used dried parsley instead of fresh. I also didn't have a ball of fresh mozzarella, so I used some grated mozzarella-cheddar cheese combination, and it worked really well.
Given how easy it is to substitute ingredients, I will definitely be making this again. Leftovers reheat very well in a low 275F oven for about 30-40 minutes.
- 1 lb ground beef
- 3 tbsp grated parmesan
- 3 tbsp breadcrumbs (or porridge oats, not instant)
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 2 large eggs (lightly beaten)
- 1 clove garlic (peeled)
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- butter for greasing
- 1 x 14 oz can diced tomatoes (drained)
- 1 tsp garlic flavored oil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 4 oz ball of mozzarella (not buffalo) (drained weight, halved then sliced)
- 1 small bunch fresh basil
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
- In a large bowl, using your hands, combine the mince, Parmesan, breadcrumbs or oats, parsley and eggs. Grate in (or mince and add) the garlic and add some salt and pepper. Do not overwork it, just lightly mix together, or the meat wiill become compacted and dense.
- Butter a shallow, round baking tin of about 11 inches diameter and turn the meat into it, pressing the mixture lightly with your fingers to cover the bottom as if the seasoned minced meat were your pizza crust.
- Make sure you've drained as much runny liquid as possible out of your can of diced tomatoes, then mix the tomato with the garlic oil, oregano and some salt and pepper and spread, using a rubber spatula, lightly on top of the meat base. Arrange the mozzarella slices on top, and then put in the oven for 20-25 minutes, by which time the meat should be cooked through and lightly set and the mozzarella melted.
- Remove from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes, then adorn with some basil leaves and bring it to the table before cutting into wedges, like a pizza.