Anyone who has traveled and eaten in Tuscany knows that meat loaves in all their glory are a big deal. Tuscan cooks usually made loaves with finely ground leftover braised or roasted meats. While many of Tuscany's offerings still are made from cooked meats, others, such as this time-honored loaf, are made from ground raw meat. Try to find a butcher who will grind the meat right in front of you or who at least grinds his own meat. If you buy it prepackaged at the supermarket, we suggest a market with good turnover and meat that has not been previously frozen and looks fresh, evenly colored, and moist. This meat loaf is great hot or cold. Serve on a platter ringed with roasted or boiled potatoes and other vegetables, if you like.
It's important to let the loaf brown well on its first side, undisturbed, before turning; otherwise, it will stick and tear. A thin metal spatula is easy to slip under the loaf to free it before turning. It's easiest to turn the loaf if the casserole is roomy enough to hold it easily. If the casserole is roomy enough to hold it easily. If the casserole is not too deep, it's pretty simple to work with the spatula. When you thicken the white wine-vegetable sauce with egg, it becomes delightfully creamy. If you prefer a denser and more intensely flavored sauce, puré it in a blender or food processor, with or without the egg. The sauce can be served chilled on chilled meat and, if necessary, thinned with a little broth or water. When testing for doneness with an instant-read thermometer, don't overdo it. Too much poking releases valuable juices. A remote digital thermometer with a probe is a good alternative, but the best solution is to master the recipe as it cooks in your oven so that you don't have to rely on any sort of thermometer.
Medium-bodied white wines go well with this, especially if the meat loaf is served cold. We loved a bottle of the Palazzone Orvieto Classico "Campo del Guardino" (from Tuscany's neighbor Umbria) alongside the cool meat. Young, fresh, light, and medium-bodied reds such as young Chianti or Morellino di Scansano (chilled or not) work well, too. One favorite: Le Pupille Morellino di Scansano, a delicious, berry-filled Sangiovese-based wine from western Tuscany. For an American choice, look for the Le Ferme Martin Merlot, the easy-drinking second label from the Wolffer Estate on Long Island.