Meatloaf. One of the ultimate comfort foods that can seemingly satisfy us on the worst of days. However, when is the last time you had a really good meatloaf? The most common complaints about the humble meatloaf are is it’s too dry, way too greasy, it’s severely lacking flavor or I don’t have a clue how to make it.
For those of us who eat meatloaf but never dare to make it at home, it’s pretty simple. Ground beef is typically used, of which some fat has to be included for the loaf not to dry out. You may also see pork mixed in. Then you add in some type of starch, usually breadcrumbs. This will give substance to your loaf and be a variant from a plain ol’ hamburger. Then to hold it all together you’ll add in some eggs for a binder. Past that, most everything else is used for flavor which includes your dry spices and minced vegetables, and of course the finishing touch of a tomato glaze on top.
My recipe uses these basics, but then tries to alleviate the issues above. A dry meatloaf starts when one tries to use a meat or meat blend as the base of their recipe with not enough fat. In this case a little will go a long way, but trying to omit it all together may mean later disappointment. Ideally choose a 10% fat content of your meat/meat blend. I also learned that soaking your starch or carbs in milk prior to adding them to your meatloaf mixture helps to make sure there are no dried pockets in your meatloaf later on. Also be sure to rest your meatloaf prior to cooking to let the juices distribute as you would a steak.
Then we have that overly greasy heap of meat. Too much fat, or cooking a meatloaf right in a loaf pan with no hopes of the grease escaping means it cooks right in the fat, and the fat stays part of the end product. I actually picked up a meatloaf pan which works wonders. (It also helps that the insert with your pan comes out so you can use the loaf pan normally and not feel like you’re getting a new pan for one single use). You can also shape the loaf on a baking sheet which will allow the grease to drip away.
With all that settled, it’s time for some flavor! A mincing of onion, carrots and garlic are my ideal go-to and starter flavor. Then I add in some parmesan cheese and some salt and pepper. That’s it! Well of course not really because people tend to live or die by the glaze. Standard ketchup or condensed tomato soup is the standard go-to, and by all means, do it! I’ve found that I like mine higher on the sugar content (yes sugar and fat make everything taste better). My sauce consists of ketchup, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and dried mustard. Easy enough, right?
I didn’t grow up eating a ton of meatloaf, but my husband did and asks for it often enough. However, I can never just let things be and I always try to add in the newest fad like quinoa in lieu of the bread component, or I add in a turkey instead of ground beef to try and make it healthy. But this base recipe with very little frills seems to have won him over so perhaps now that I’ve mastered this perhaps I can go back to trying to update it yet again now that I have a good base. All in the name of research and development for Eat Your Tarte Out!
To full plates and eating your tarte out,
- 2 pounds of ground beef
- 2 large carrots, peeled
- 1 small onion
- 1/3 cup of fresh parsley
- 1 cup of bread crumbs or three slices of bread
- 3/4 cup of milk
- 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 eggs
- 1cup of ketchup
- 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons of dried mustard
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the ground beef into a large bowl and allow to come to room temperature while you prep your ingredients.
- In a food processor, combine your carrots, onion and parsley. Pulse until finely minced but not pureed. In another large bowl, mix your carrot mixture with your milk and bread crumbs. Allow to sit for ten minutes or until bread is soggy.
- Combine your ground beef, milk mixture, parmesan cheese, spices and eggs. Mix until just combined - do not over mix.
- Form into a small loaf on a greased baking sheet, pack into a loaf pan, or dole out individually into muffin tins. Bake for forty five minutes (or 20 minutes if baking individually).
- Remove your loaf from the oven. Combine your sauce ingredients and pour over top. Put back into the oven and cook for another fifteen minutes.
- Take the loaf out of the oven and allow to sit for ten minutes. Remove from pan, and slice!
- Make individual meatloaves into meatloaf cupcakes! Top with mashed potatoes and pour on more sauce or add garnishes for a pretty finish!
- This recipe is a great base recipe. Incorporate Southwestern, Mexican, Italian or even Greecian flavors by using different cheeses, ingredients such as tomatoes or olives, and mix up the spices with your favorite steak or barbecue rub.