This recipe for rifreddo, a kind of meat loaf, comes from a friend of my mother-in-law’s and is a favorite in the kitchens of the most talented cooks of the Bolognese cooking school.
It is quickly prepared with just 3 ingredients and is very versatile: save this recipe!
About Italian rifreddo, galantina and polpettone.
The only one that can be translated as meatloaf is polpettone.
The first two are typical preparations from northern and central Italy and have been known since the Renaissance. These were dishes that could be preserved for a long time, and this was important at a time when preserving meat, in particular, was difficult. These recipes are somewhere between a roast and a meatloaf (but they are not all similar).
Historically, the term rifreddo refers to a dish that was eaten cold and served after the main course and before dessert (and the same applied to galantines).
Rifreddi and galantine are nowadays obsolete preparations. A characteristic of these recipes is that the cooking process may involve soaking the dish in a liquid (broth or water).
Once cooked, it is left to cool before being cut into slices.
While meatloaf, a recipe with Italian origins, is always made with minced ingredients and is closely related to meatballs, rifreddi and galantine are made with minced meat, even mixed meats, with or without a vegetable or boiled egg filling; or with ingredients cut into very thin slices and layered on top. Or, finally, it is a piece of minced meat wrapped in a slice of meat that contains and encloses everything.
Why did I mention meatloaf? It can have a consistency reminiscent of a rifreddo without being one.
In Emilia-Romagna, and in particular in Bologna, there is a consolidated tradition in the preparation of rifreddo and galantine.
Cook ham loaf (rifreddo).
The consistency of this rifreddo is like meatloaf but the flavor recalls certain simpler recipes for Bolognese galantine.
The slice is firm but soft; moist and tasty on the palate.
The recipe is really interesting: gluten-free, only 3 ingredients to mix together and a long but undemanding cooking time.
After having finely chopped the cooked ham, you knead it with grated parmigiano and lightly beaten eggs. Shape it like a meatloaf, it must be able to be placed in the pan of your choice, wrap it first in a sheet of baking paper, then seal it in aluminium foil and finally put it in a pot full of water to cook for about 45 minutes during which you must not stir or anything else.
At the end of the cooking process, gently remove the chilled stock from the water (don’t waste good stock here, it is sealed and there is no exchange between liquid and ham loaf). And let it cool completely before cutting.
It can be eaten cold with mayonnaise and a seasonal salad; warm with a side dish of your choice (peas, baked potato); or hot, perhaps baked in the oven or frying pan – already sliced – covered with cheese and accompanied by mashed potatoes and sweet and sour onions with balsamic vinegar.
This is a main course that you can also serve at an event or Sunday lunch. Cut into slices, put it in a picnic basket or use it to stuff sandwiches.
Buona cucina, Monica
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Shape the roll so that it can fit in the pan full of water (into the pan the loaf floats: it is OK).
If you halve the quantities (use 2 eggs), the roll can still feed 4 people.
You can freeze it and use it whenever you want, I put it in the freezer already cut into slices.
Cooked Ham Loaf (Rifreddo) Alla Bolognese
cooked ham, 300g
grated parmigiano reggiano, 300g
medium eggs, 3
Finely process the cooked ham in a mixer.
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and knead first with a fork and then with your hands to form a soft, well-blended mixture.
Line up one sheet of aluminium foil and one, of the same size, of baking paper. Both large enough to wrap and close the ham loaf.
Place the mixture on the sheet of baking paper and use your hands to shape it into a meatloaf.
Wrap in baking paper, folding the paper flaps under the roll.
Wrap this roll in aluminium foil and seal the two ends so that they hold the roll in shape (you can find the video with the whole process here).
Place in a pan, cover with hot water and cook on the cooker over a medium heat and a half-covered pan for 45 minutes.
Turn off the heat and, taking care not to burn yourself, remove the roll from the pan.
Be careful, at this stage it is still soft even if perfectly cooked.
Place the rifreddo on a clean kitchen towel and allow to cool completely before removing the wrappers and cutting into slices.
It will keep in the fridge for several days.