I have an awkward relationship to meatloaf - growing up, it was on weekly rotation in my house (and, I'm sure, every other home in a thousand mile radius in 1960s Nebraska), and when I was a young wife and mother, I certainly made my share of it... but I didn't actually enjoy it very much and I was never sure why.
Eventually, it fell off my meal planning list, never to be thought of again.
Never, that is, until my husband started making puppy dog eyes as every menu that had meatloaf on it, and wishing I would make it for old times sake.
Well... nuts. Now I had to think about meatloaf and just what it was about it I wasn't in love with. After looking over a couple dozen recipes (and trust me - there are about as many recipes for it as there are people who cook it. Check your grandma's recipe box if you're fortunate enough to get ahold of it - there's at least a half dozen versions tucked away), I realized that what I disliked was my mother's pet version - and I'd never really branched out from it.
She mixed hers with raw onions in the loaf, and they cookd to a soft texture I really hated. She also used oatmeal as filler and I disliked that a LOT. Long ago, I switched to diced bread cubes, but that was equally meh.
So this time, I chose to use dry crumbs - not big enough to cause any unpleasant mouth-feel, and switched to another old-school standby - dry onion soup mix. And I also added some chunks of cheddar cheese, because cheese always makes meatloaf taste better.
I used a pound each of ground meat and loose mild Italian sausage and loved the extra flavor that imparted.
Lastly - and this was just a matter of needing a substitute for tomato paste - I made up a sauce of ketchup, Worchestershire and V8 juice that gave the whole thing a really good flavor.
I'm pretty sure this lasted us through enough leftover meals (including some excellent meatloaf grilled cheese sandwiches) that I won't be making it again very soon - but for every so often, yes! I'll add this to the occasional rotation and not even mind when he asks for it again.
Classic Cheesy Meatloaf
(makes one loaf)
1 lb ground ground beef
1 lb loose mild Italian sausage
1 cup dry Panko bread crumbs
1 package dry onion soup mix
1 Tblsp Worchestershire sauce
1 Tblsp brown mustard
1 tsp. jarred minced garlic
1/4 cup ketchup
1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded or cut into 1/4" cubes.
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/3 cup ketchup
1 can V8 juice
1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
Preheat oven to 350F.
In large bowl, combine all of the meatloaf ingredients, squishing with hands to fully combine all ingredients throughout.
Turn the meatloaf mixture into a loaf pan, shaping to fit the pan. Shape the top into a slight dome shape, and press a trench in the center of the loaf (this helps the sauce soak in rather than overflow the pan).
If desired, take a chopstick of the back end of a piece of silverware to poke hole in the trench so the sauce goes into the meatloaf.
Whisk together the sauce ingredients and pour over the uncooked meatloaf, making sure to cover the entire loaf top. Run a knife down the side if needed to give it room, so as to avoid spills.
Bake at 350F for an hour.
We sauteed some mushrooms to go with this, and served it up with egg noodles. It'd also be excellent served with some scalloped potatoes. And definitely, you'll want to tuck a slice into your favorite grilled cheese sandwich the next day - if that doesn't make a person a meatloaf fan, nothing will.
I'd love to hear about your favorite meatloaf variation!