With only half the work of preparing meatballs, one taste of Italian Meatloaf, with its tomatoey goodness and a hint of lemon zest sprinkled with fresh basil chiffonade, is like taking a trip to Italy for the senses.
A Recipe Worth Passing Down
Do you know those moments when you stumble upon a recipe you know will be a part of your family for the rest of your life? Well, this is one of those moments. I grew up on meatloaf and mashed potatoes. And truthfully I have no problem with traditional meatloaf. Decidedly, it makes a good sandwich from the leftovers. But, Italian Meatloaf is like being whisked away to Italy, eating a plateful of spaghetti and meatballs in the middle of an olive grove.
Now, I realize spaghetti and meatballs originated in America from Italian immigrants but humor me for a minute. Secretly, I have this fantasy of spending several months in a little Italian village. Ultimately, I want to be adopted by an Italian grandma who takes me under her wing and shows me everything she knows about cooking. Every night we would eat under the stars in the middle of an olive grove, the food we had prepared all day. I know a friend who did this and ever since she shared her experience, I have longed for her memory to be my reality.
Easier Than Preparing Meatballs
Spaghetti & Meatballs is one of my favorite comfort foods. But when I discovered Italian meatloaf, I realized it was the perfect substitute for that Spaghetti & Meatballs craving in less of the hands-on time that it takes to prepare meatballs. Hey, there is a time commitment to rolling 40-60 meatballs…even if, no especially if, the kids help:)
There will always be a place in my heart for Spaghetti & Meatballs. But for now, my family requests Italian Meatloaf. Maybe it is the fact that I employ any child around to roll meatballs, but there is very little work required with Italian Meatloaf. Technically, it is the same flavor experience.
Watch The Video Here
- For the Sauce:
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 T (5 cloves) chopped garlic
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1-15 oz can of tomato sauce
- 1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp salt (to your taste)
- For the Meatloaf:
- 1 sleeve (36) Saltine Crackers, crushed
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 preserved lemon, minced or zest from 1 organic lemon
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. granulated garlic
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 oz. (1 cup) fresh grated Parmesan
- 1 lb. ground beef (85%)
- 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella or fontina cheese
- fresh basil chiffonade
- Preheat oven to 400° F and spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
- In a large saucepan, sauté chopped onion in olive oil over medium heat until translucent (about 7 minutes).
- Add in chopped garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for an additional minute.
- Pour in wine and cook down until the liquid has evaporated.
- Add tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes and salt to taste.
- Simmer for 10-15 minutes
- For the meatloaf:
- Crush a sleeve of Saltine crackers in a food processor or roll with a rolling pin in a freezer bag.
- Add to a bowl along with milk and eggs. Stir to combine.
- Add in spices, Parmesan, and meat.
- Using your hands, mix together and form into a loaf in the center of a 9x13 prepared baking dish. Leave room around the edges for the sauce.
- Pour sauce over the meatloaf, cover with foil, and bake in the oven for 1 hour, checking for an internal temperature of 160° F when done.
- Sprinkle cheese over top and broil for a few minutes until melted and bubbly.
- Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes while you drool over the amazing smell.
- Garnish with fresh basil chiffonade.
- Slice and serve over spaghetti noodles.
Alternatively, because I have made this recipe so often, I have streamlined preparation into one dutchoven instead of using a separate baking dish and saute pan. See the video in the post for details. Less Dishes!!!!!
Is There a Better Name Than Meatloaf?
I don’t mean to be picky, but I am a word person. Words affect me in strange ways. For instance, the words potluck, chuckwagon, buffet, casserole, and yes, meatloaf all drum up for me visions of scary church potlucks with kids’ dirty hands touching all the food, coughing and sneezing all over it. Additionally, it reminds me of my grandmother’s fascination with Jell-o molds and cottage cheese. Sorry grandma, I can’t even go there.
Somehow meatloaf got thrown into the whole twitchy lot and I can’t seem to shake the trigger. Not that Italian meat rounded oval or rectangle is any better. Whose idea was it to call it a loaf? You might as well have called it a brick. So, I am working on a more hip name, but for now, we a calling it an Italian Meatloaf for lack of a better title. It really is way more amazing than the sound of it. Apologies for the rant. I feel better now.
Ingredients…Because They Do Make A Difference
For the sauce, my favorite tomatoes are Jovial crushed tomatoes that I get in bulk from Azure Standard. Technically, you can use any of your own favorite tomatoes but I will preface that in this recipe I am using Jovial because they don’t add salt (so I can add my own) and they are just bursting with vine-ripened tomato flavor. You will need to adjust the salt to your own taste.
I also prefer to use grass-fed and finished meat to eliminate all the yucky stuff while supporting a more sustainable meat source. We purchase most of our meat through ButcherBox or Wild Pastures as an affordable way to use quality, sustainable, and humanly pasture-raised meat. We don’t cut corners when it comes to meat and dairy. If you are interested in learning how to Eat Real, Organic Food Without Breaking the Bank, click on the link. Trust me, you probably didn’t know it was possible.