You would think I would be the president of a Giada De Laurentiis fan club by now. My DVR is set to record every new episode of her new show. I am convinced I’ve watched every season of Everyday Italian. I own two of her cookbooks. I pull every magazine she appears on the cover of. And, I almost ditched work once to get her autograph at the Sur La Table in San Francisco. Devastatingly, tickets were sold out. In so few words: I’m obsessed.
I’ve been an admirer since one lazy afternoon during college, circa 2006, no doubt putting off some paper or reading assignment. And, I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to be her. The woman looks like she could be Natalie Portman’s sister!!! (And, I’m not fazed by friends’ comments about her low-cut shirts or their “Giada-Big-Head” taunts.) Now, she has her own line of kitchen wares and pasta at Target. Swoon.
Surprisingly, though, I have prepared few of her recipes. The results have been a mixed bag – some were good, some not so. Except for her turkey meatloaf with feta and sun-dried tomatoes, which is the stallion of the pack. It even leaves her raspberry brownies in its dust. It is a well-rounded dish that pleases for a number of different reasons, the first being that it will turn meatloaf naysayers into converts. That would include me.
I had never caught onto the idea that meat, ketchup, and other ingredients clumped together and baked as a “loaf” was good. Why don’t I just eat a burger, then? My Mom rarely served it for my siblings and me as kids because she didn’t think anyone liked it. (“There were too many pieces that you picked out,” she says.) But, when Giada made her turkey meatloaf in that fateful episode, I decided that it might be the time to give meatloaf another chance, especially since I needed a new arsenal of recipes for meals that would satisfy my hungry boyfriend. And, it wasn’t really meatloaf in the traditional sense.
The recipe is a no-brainer. Grab a knife and start mincing some garlic, parsley, and sun-dried tomatoes. This all gets mixed in with the seasoning, feta cheese, bread crumbs, eggs, and milk, followed by the ground turkey. Pack it into a loaf pan and bake. What you pull out of the oven is a steaming slab of Thanksgiving. The bread crumbs and parsley hit the tongue like a side of stuffing next to a drumstick. The incorporation of feta cheese provides pockets of unassuming creaminess with each bite. I was taken aback by its unusually subtle flavor in the meatloaf. The fragments of garlic and tomato give it some spice and obvious flavor. Giada, you outdid yourself with this one.
And, true to Giada’s cooking aesthetic, each slice is visually enticing with an Italian confetti of parsley, cheese, and tomato tossed throughout. “Look how pretty that is,” she would say, grinning widely, pointing to the red and green pieces as she sliced it. However you want to look at it, it’s definitely a reinvention of the classic that is difficult to spare for leftovers.
That’s what I love about Giada. Her food isn’t revolutionary by any means (no vacuum-sealing venison on her show), but she improves upon the identifiable favorites with an Italian or Californian twist. She proves that minimal effort is needed to prepare a gourmet meal – no quail egg and brie in her fridge, just a pound of humble ground turkey.
Turkey Meatloaf with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Adapted from Giada De Larurentiis’ recipe
You might as well call it a turkey-loaf, but speaking of turkey, Giada’s recipe calls for dark meat. At my grocery store, the light stuff was buy one, get one free, so I went with that, and it turned out just as moist as I imagine it would with dark meat. So, I’m calling for it in my version.
½ cup plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. milk (whole or skim)
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1.25 pounds ground turkey
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, stir the bread crumbs, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, eggs, milk, feta, salt, and pepper together. Add the turkey and gently stir to combine, being careful not to overwork the meat.
Carefully pack the meat mixture into a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan that has been oiled with cooking spray. Bake until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes. Slice and serve with a side of steamed broccoli with a dousing of parmesan.