Pulpeta (Not Meatloaf)

I have a confession to make.

I’m really kind of embarrassed about this, but here goes. . .

I spent years being disappointed by good old-fashioned American-style meatloaf. There. I said it.

Growing up in a Cuban household here in the U.S.A. brings with it lots of cultural confusion. Meatloaf is my own personal hot button. Every time I had meatloaf, I kept thinking it would be tender, moist and flavorful (that right there sounded like a cat food commercial, didn’t it? Sorry. =D)

I am still stinging from the pain and confusion of Meatloaf Disappointment. Does anyone out there know what I'm even talking about? (sigh - it's lonely out here on this limb.)

I never met a meatloaf that matched what my taste buds were clamoring for. The dry, brown, meat-food that desperately needed ketchup (or “kachoo” in Spanish) just to make it palatable was so NOT what I wanted, that I finally just gave up.

That's right. I grew up, got on with my life and just lived with the disappointment. I finally chalked it up to that no-one-makes-this-dish-like-my-mom thing. And so said goodbye to meatloaf altogether, until . . .

I finally asked my mom what she did to make it taste so good.

Lesson number one: American meatloaf and Cuban meatloaf are light years apart. We Cubans only call it meatloaf to give Americans a frame of reference. We call it Pulpeta. (which sounds like there should be an octopus involved, but that’s not important right now).

Lesson number two: It’s not baked in a loaf pan, but seared and then gently simmered in a savory Cuban-style sauce. Shut.Up. That, right there, makes ALL the difference! (This lesson is best learned with a sharp slap to the forehead and a hearty "Du-oh!")

Lesson number three: It is OKAY if you’re Cuban to not like American-style meatloaf. Embrace it. It will save you years of therapy.


  • 1 lb. Ground beef
  • ½ lb. Ground pork
  • 1 small can deviled ham (or you can grind your own ham)
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 tsp salt.
  • 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. oregano
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • Another cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 more beaten eggs
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • ½ green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 small jar diced pimientos
  • 1 small can sweet peas
  • 1 bay leaf

Wash your hands and roll up your sleeves. Trust me. There’s no better way..

1) In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, ground pork and deviled ham.

2) To this meat mixture add 1 cup of breadcrumbs, 2 beaten eggs, salt, pepper, paprika, oregano and knead it together until it’s thoroughly combined.

3) Shape this mixture into an oblong loaf.

4) Take the 2 hard-boiled eggs and push them into the loaf, so that they end up right in the center of the loaf, end to end. Shape the meat back into its oblong shape.

5) Refrigerate for at least an hour.

6) Put the rest of the breadcrumbs on a flat plate.

7) Put the other 2 beaten eggs on another plate.  

8) Carefully roll the loaf in the beaten eggs, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Repeat.

9) In a large shallow frying pan, gently brown the loaf on all sides in olive oil. You are basically searing the outside until it creates a nice, crunchy crust.

10) In a pot with a heavy bottom, heat the olive oil and add the garlic, peppers and onions. Cook until soft. Add tomato sauce, white wine, pimientos, peas and bay leaf.

11) Gently place the seared meat into this mixture and reduce heat to low.

12) Cover and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Spoon the sauce over the meat occasionally as it cooks.

13) Remove the meat to a serving platter and allow to rest.

14) Slice the meat into about 1 ½ inch slices and be prepared for the ooohs and aaahs when you slice it to reveal the hard-boiled eggs.

15) Pour sauce over meat if desired.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I feel so much better now. 

(originally posted on Babalú Blog. October 2007.)