I have a love-hate relationship with meatloaf. Meatloaf is one of those meals that is either really, really good or really, really bad…like mystery meat bad. I think that’s why a lot of people don’t like meatloaf….it can be grayish and mushy (or hard!) and covered in any kind of random sauce. Some people use gravy, some people use ketchup, some people use barbecue sauce, and some people use tomato sauce. Whatever sauce you prefer….that’s your business. I’m not here to judge. I’m just saying, meatloaf is so easy to do badly…but when it’s done well, it’s can be absolutely delicious.
This recipe is not mine, really. I borrowed it, like I do so often, from Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond. I first tried it when I got her first cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, and she later posted it on her website. I do make a minor change or two (halving the recipe, omitting the bacon), but for the most part, this is hers. I love it because (a) the tomato “gravy” on top is absolutely delicious; and (b) it doesn’t have chunks in it. Some people like chunks of onions and pepper in their meatloaf; I don’t. This recipe is devoid of chunks.
Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Now, remember, my recipe is halved because I am only feeding 2 people. This makes enough for 4 servings (yea leftovers!). Tear three slices of bread into pieces and pour 1/2 cup of milk over them in a bowl. Leave them to soak while you prep the rest of the ingredients. I usually kind of mush them around with my hands a bit from time to time to make sure that the pieces on top get equal soaking time.
Now for the tomato gravy: start with 3/4 cup of ketchup (I love this Pampered Chef bowl because it has the measurements marked on the side). Put in three tablespoons of brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard, then stir it up until it’s smooth. I usually stick mine in the fridge while I get the rest of it together, but I guess it really doesn’t matter….
Now, let’s get down to brass tacks. Put 1 pound of ground beef (this is ground sirloin) into a bowl. Add two beaten eggs, 1/2 cup of grated parmesan, and about 1/4 cup of chopped flat-leaf parsley (I never actually measure, I just kind of “eyeball” it). The next thing I do is completely mush the bread up into little crumbs so I don’t end up with weird chunks of bread in my meatloaf. Finally, I add 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of Lawry’s seasoned salt.
Now, here’s where we separate the men from the boys. If you want to really do a good mixing job, you’re gonna have to get over any squeamishness you have over putting your hands in the raw meat. It’s not going to hurt you! If you just can’t do it, use a wooden spoon…but I just get my hands in there and mush it all up until it’s all mixed together and everything’s incorporated. Form the mixture into a loaf about 2 1/2 or 3 inches thick on a broiler pan. No, I don’t use a loaf pan! Using a broiler pan (or if you don’t have one, just use a baking sheet) lets all the juices run off. Spread 1/3 of the tomato gravy over the loaf and bake it for 45 minutes. Spread another 1/3 of the sauce over the top and return it to the oven for another 15 or 20 minutes. I know this is a long cooking time…but you don’t want pink meatloaf, right? If you are doubling the recipe, you can still use the same cooking time…just make a longer loaf but keep it the same thickness.
I like to cut my meatloaf into quarters instead of slices. Sometimes I serve it with the more traditional mashed potatoes, but this time we went with “breakfast potatoes” and green beans. I serve the rest of the sauce on the side for dipping (for the meat and the potatoes!). Try this meatloaf and let me know what you think!