Nora Ephron’s Fancy Meatloaf (never too meta to eat!)

So I’m reading this article and recipe in the New York Times (by Sam Sifton) who described making Nora Ephron’s Fancy Meatloaf that inspired me to write about and make this recipe – with my changes – which was concerning, as I wondered if the end product would be too meta to eat.

Mr. Sifton wrote the article in 2009, which described his being invited to cook dinner for the late Nora Ephron, humorist screenwriter and journalist. Ms. Ephron, according to the New York Times Diners Journal, used food to define characters. “…A food-lover to the pitch-perfect recipes in ‘Heartburn’ (her autobiographical 1983 ‘novel with recipes’) to the film ‘Julie and Julia’ in 2009, food was real, front and center in her work.”

Let’s not forget the bit she wrote for the movie, “When Harry Met Sally”.  You remember the infamous scene between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal over deli sandwiches – you know the one I’m referring; I don’t need to spell it out. The “I’ll have what’s she’s having” moment when Ms. Ryan was proving a point to Mr. Crystal over pastrami. Ahem. Where were we?

Pancetta, red wine & Parmesan make this "fancy".

Pancetta, red wine & Parmesan make this “fancy”.

Back to topic. Mr Sifton was making Ms. Ephron’s Fancy Meat Loaf for a pot-luck, the guests charged to bring food “inspired by Ephron’s career or by the woman herself”. Quote Mr Sifton: “She may be to food as Scorsese is to bar fights. Just thinking about cooking for her, I felt sick and wondered if bringing a few bottles of cold Pellegrino or Laurent-Perrier Champagne would do instead.”

The humor of the article centered around the butcher not removing the plastic wrap around the pancetta before slicing, which ended up incorporated into Mr. Sifton’s meatloaf, lending “… a kind of stubble on my finished loaf — plastic pin bones”.

When recreating the recipe, I followed Mr. Sifton’s advise who wrote, “Don’t make a person’s signature recipe for that person, ever. Instead, take it as a starting point.”  Sadly, no one will be cooking for Nora Ephron since her death last June, but her wit will keep me chuckling to the finish.

Meatloaf, like life, can be messy in the execution.

Meatloaf, like life, can be messy in the execution.

My changes to the recipe: I was too lazy to remove the bread crust (no harm done), I diced the pancetta (per original recipe – sans plastic), added fresh basil and garlic, and substituted Chianti for the white wine. The results? Scrumptious. The next time I make it, I may add an additional egg or two since the meatloaf fell a part a bit as I cumbersomely flipped it in the pan, but maybe not. Meatloaf, like life, can be messy in the execution.

The following recipe was adapted from Sam Sifton’s Fancy Meat Loaf recipe, which was adapted from Nora Ephrons’, which was adapted from Gourmet Magazine. No matter what changes you make to whatever recipe you select, to whatever form this meatloaf morphs in your kitchen,  this mighty fine meatloaf’s never too meta to eat.

(Other favorite loafs: Vegetarian Spinach-Rice-Nut Loaf; Meatloaf in Paradise; Turkey Loaf with Bulgur)

Recipe: Nora Ephron’s Fancy Meatloaf


  • 1/2 loaf Italian bread, torn into small pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 2 large eggs, whisked together
  • 4 ounces pancetta, cut into small dice
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup washed and chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup washed and chopped basil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup Italian red wine chianti


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Soak the bread in the milk for 10 minutes.
  2. Mix the beef, veal, eggs, pancetta, Parmesan, parsley, basil, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Squeeze the bread to remove excess milk, then chop and add it to the meat. Mix gently until well combined. Fry a bit in a skillet and taste; add additional kosher salt and pepper, if needed, to taste. (see above notes on adding salt and pepper)
  3. Transfer onto a board and shape into a fine meatloaf, shy of a foot in length and 4 inches across. Loosely cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes and up to several hours, covered.
  4. Heat the oil and butter in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatloaf and sear without moving it until it is browned, about 5 minutes. Carefully slide a spatula under the meatloaf, then gently use another spatula to help turn it and brown the second side, again without moving it for 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  5. Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of the fat, return the skillet to the stove and raise the heat to high. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits stuck to it with a wooden spoon. Return the meatloaf to the skillet; baste with juices, and then transfer to the oven, basting occasionally with the pan juices, until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 150 degrees, about 25 minutes.
  6. Transfer the meatloaf to a platter and let stand, tented with foil, 10 minutes. Slice, pour the pan juices over the top and serve.

Number of servings (yield): 6

Active Time: 60 minutes

Bake Time: apx. 25 minutes

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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