We are a family that likes its meatloaf. I love to cook it I think because there are so many variations and because it's a meal that kids (mine, anyway) love to help prepare. It's also something that's easily made ahead of time. If you buy 4 pounds of ground meat, you can make two meat loaves, one for now and one you can freeze (unbaked) for another time. Here are some of my favorite variations on meatloaf, starting with the basic recipe of:
- 2 pounds of lean ground meat (beef, pork, veal, chicken, turkey, bulk Italian sausage or a combination—I love pork in meatloaf. If using turkey, don't get the leanest if you have a choice. Ground turkey thighs work best.)
- 1/2-3/4 cup of oatmeal flakes, e.g. Quaker (not breadcrumbs)
- 1/2 a grated onion (yellow or red, whatever you have on hand)
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 hefty glug of Worcestershire sauce (or soy sauce if you don't have Worcestershire)
- one egg lightly beaten (or egg whites, which I prefer)
- salt and pepper to taste
Bake at 325º for an hour and 15 minutes (place loaf pan on a cookie sheet to catch any drips). Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
My favorite veggie add-ins (choose any combination of the below):
- one grated carrot
- one grated medium zucchini or yellow squash, squeezed as dry as possible
- a handful of finely chopped green beans
- a handful or two of finely shredded fresh baby spinach
- 1 stalk of celery, very finely minced
- chopped mushrooms, any time (reconstituted dried are great, too)
- 2 tbsps minced sun-dried tomatoes
My favorite cheesy add-ins (choose one):
- 1/2 cup of crumbled blue cheese
- 1/2 cup of crumbled feta
- 1/2 cup of chopped fresh mozzarella
- 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 tbsps grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
My favorite herby add-ins (choose one):
- a tsp of chopped fresh rosemary (really good with beef-pork combo)
- a tsp of chopped fresh sage (esp. good with turkey meatloaf)
- leaves stripped from a few branches of fresh thyme
- a handful of chopped, fresh marjoram
- 1 tsp of poultry seasoning if you don't have fresh herbs on hand
Other fun additions:
- a row of peeled hard-boiled eggs (Place half the meatloaf mixture in pan, line eggs in a row down the center, top with other half of meatloaf mixture. When sliced, each portion will have an egg slice in the middle.)
- you can also use the above technique to "stuff" your meatloaf with that last bit of leftover mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese (or any leftover short pasta)
- a tsp each of chipotle powder and cumin + 1/2 cup of salsa + substitute finely chopped corn tortillas for the oatmeal to make a Mexican meatloaf
- a spoonful of Dijon mustard
- a spoonful of horseradish
- a big handful of crumbled bacon (esp with the horseradish and cheddar cheese)
- Omit the egg from the meatloaf and substitute 1/2 to 3/4 a can of condensed cream of chicken soup instead (do not add water, reduce the salt). This is especially good with turkey meatloaf which tends to be dry if you don't add enough moisture.
- For a turkey meatloaf, try adding blue cheese and dried cherries.
Before popping your meatloaf in the oven top it with a squiggle of:
- barbecue sauce
Or paint it with a mixture of tomato paste, Dijon mustard, and a little garlic powder
Or lay a few strips of bacon down on top.
My favorite "stand-by, nothing more needed" meatloaf recipe. Feel free to riff on this theme, but it's really good as is. And it makes great sandwiches the next day.
Definitely make enough so you can have sandwiches the next day. My favorite is sliced cold meatloaf on soft white bread that has been shmeared with a mixture of mayo and ketchup. Lettuce optional.
One last thing—when mixing meatloaf, don't forget to use your hands!