I have a great love for the American classic meatloaf. I often find that some people love it and some people hate it. This most likely all depends on your childhood memories of such a dish. For me, my Mom made great meatloaf. She would use Heinz Chili Sauce and cook it with carrots and potatoes. The next day I would bring a cold meatloaf sandwich on wheat bread to school for lunch (and get mocked by my classmates for eating “dog food.” What did they know…they were eating Lunchables!).
My go to place for meatloaf in a restaurant is C.F. Folks in Dupont Circle. But, for many years I’ve long been on the search for the perfect meatloaf recipe that I can make at home. One that creates a good gravy, stays moist, has a little something special in it but not too much stuff. Meatloaf became popular in Depression era America because you could take a small amount of meat and make it stretch by combining it with all types of ingredients. Some people put a hard boiled egg inside the meat. Others use panko crumbs for a different type of crunch. I’ve even had meatloaf stuffed with wedges of Cheddar cheese.
I like the recipe below because it uses Italian seasoning, classic ingredients, and has a deliciously tomato-y sauce. There’s no reason to mess with tradition, serve this meatloaf with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.
1 ½ pound ground beef
1 ½ pound ground veal
1 cup milk
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
¾ cups finely grated Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 medium sized onion, diced
2 tablespoons dried oregano
½ tablespoon dried red pepper flakes (add more or less depending on your preference)
½ cup chopped flatleaf parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil, for greasing
1 15 oz. canned plum tomatoes, crushed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large carrot, diced
1 large stalk celery, diced
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
2. Put the beef and veal into a bowl and knead them together.
3. Pour the milk into a bowl and soak the bread crumbs, it will create a paste-like substance. Add the soaked bread crumbs to the bowl with the meat and work them together as though you were kneading the dough. Add the cheese, garlic, onion, eggs, oregano, red pepper flakes, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and knead again until well incorporated.
4. Oil a large roasting pan with the olive oil. Form the meat mixture into a large loaf in the center of the roasting pan. [Note: I formed 2 separate loaves, in order to freeze one. I think this also guaranteed a juicier meatloaf.]
5. Stir the plum tomatoes, tomato paste, and 1 cup of water together in a bowl and pour the mixture evenly over the meatloaf. Scatter the carrots and celery in the pan around the loaf.
6. Put the pan in the oven and bake until a skewer inserted in the center of the loaf comes out warm, about 1 ½ hours (begin checking it for doneness around 1 hour 15 minutes, especially if you are making 2 loaves). If the loaf begins to look dry while cooking, ten it with aluminum foil. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool slightly.
7. Slice the meatloaf in to servings, put 1 serving on each plate and spoon pan gravy and vegetables over and around the meatloaf.
Note: The original recipe called for 1 pound pork, but since I rarely eat pork I just added ½ pound to the other 2 meats.
You can also add some sautéed mushrooms to the pan during the last 20 minutes of cooking.
Adapted from Michael Lomanaco’s Nightly Specials.