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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Meatloaf with Pasta and Pomodoro Sauce‏ with Thyme

As the days get longer, our little south-facing herb garden in Cambridge springs back to life and we are once again able to make generous use of tarragon, parsley, chives and thyme.

During the winter months, we were limited to the evergreens - bay and rosemary - plus spices such as clove and nutmeg; no bad thing, as we matched these with big whites and spicy warm-hearted reds.

Our diet in the CWB household is essentially French and Italian based - classic sauces and well-matched simple dishes. With just a small number of ingredients, good quality is an absolute must.

One favourite is meatloaf wrapped in bacon served with pasta and pomodoro sauce which makes extensive use of thyme and parsley.

In spring, when the thyme starts growing, the stems are soft enough to chop; later on during the year, they become woody and the only solution is to tie a bundle of stems with thread, bouquet garni-style.

We find this recipe feeds a family of four.

Meatloaf

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

The meatloaf is made simply by wrapping a 400g block of good-quality sausagemeat in strips of streaky bacon, then roasting for around 45 minutes until thoroughly cooked and the juices run clear.

Pomodoro Sauce

As soon as the meatloaf is in the oven, gently fry one finely chopped onion with a bay leaf in sunflower oil for 10-15 minutes, then turn up the heat and add one tin of good quality chopped tomatoes - for this recipe I used Cirio which come with a thick sauce and therefore don't need to be reduced down.

Stir gently until the sauce takes on a golden hue as it cooks in the oil then add a handful of chopped thyme and simmer briefly before setting aside.

For me, the thyme has a really wonderful, sweet flavour that matches perfectly with the tomatoes and takes me back to a childhood summer holiday in Tuscany when I ate spaghetti pomodoro almost every day.

Pasta and Garnishes

With about 10 minutes to go until the meatloaf is ready, put the spaghetti (50g-75g per person) into a pan of salted boiling water and cook on a rolling boil until al dente.

Whilst it is cooking, finely chop some fresh parsley and grab a block of Parmesan, a grater and the pepper mill.

Serving

Once the meatloaf is ready, re-heat the pomodoro sauce, then slice the meatloaf and serve with the spaghetti and some of the pomodoro sauce spooned on top.

Garnish the sauce with grated Parmesan, chopped parsley and ground black pepper.

The sweetness of the tomato-based sauce matches perfectly with the salty meatloaf, whilst the acidity cuts through the fattiness of this dish.

The parsley and pepper garnish add a touch of freshness and a bit of a kick.

If you really want to show off, place slices of mozzarella on top of the sliced meatloaf and brown under the grill before serving.

Wine

A red wine to match with this should have plenty of juicy acidity, lots of ripe fruit, a bit of spice and not too much tannin.

Many will fit the bill, but a CWB favourite is the Mont Rocher Old Vines Carignan from Cambridge Wine Merchants.

To make this into an easy, mid-week three-course meal, we start with crostini - lightly toasted white bread rubbed with garlic, salted and drizzled generously with olive oil - and finish with cheese and biscuits, usually just two very good quality cheeses (a soft brie or goat's plus a firm cheddar or comte) which we take out of the fridge before cooking starts to give them time to get up to room temperature.

Cirio tomatoes provided for review; widely available.

Links

Cirio - http://www.cirio1856.co.uk/

Image credit - http://whatscookingamerica.net/thyme.htm

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