“Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double-beatloaf. I hate meatloaf.” – Randy A Christmas Story
I hate meatloaf. Hate. Perhaps I should start again.
Meatloaf, at least to me, always seems like a square, under seasoned hamburger patty. I’ve eaten it a million different ways, with Ketchup, without, with brown gravy, white gravy, meatloaf with crackers, meatloaf with pasta, meatloaf with shredded carrots and zucchini, your great grand-mamas super secret meatloaf. I still hate meatloaf.
What I hate more than meatloaf is not liking a dish. If I can’t make a version that I like then I become obsessed with it. Kind of like when the folks on Myth Busters can’t get the results they want, so they try crazy experiments with the left over set up…yeaaaaah…I get a little “mad scientist”. I’ve tried to spruce it up by using a blend of meats ranging from ground Italian sausage to ground turkey to ground bison. I’ve stuffed it with homemade stuffing, stuffed it with mashed potatos I’ve used panko, saltines, whole bread chunks and Italian bread crumbs from a tin and even tried using bacon. I’ve wrapped it in bacon and slathered it in reductions and various types of gravy. I still hate meatloaf.
You may be asking why do I care so much? Well for one, it’s one of the hubsters favorite comfort foods. I loathe meatloaf night in my house and so he feels bad asking for it. Not fair. If someone made me feel bad for wanting lasagna I’d punch them. He’s far more polite than I, clearly.
Soooooo when I found an abundance of ground beef in my freezer on the night that Vlad was hosting the weekly “retro gaming guys night” at our house I knew it had to be meatloaf. No matter how sophisticated the palate or refined the taste when these geeks get together to game they want comfort food. There it was, meatloaf, waving it’s stupid meaty little hand at me. Taunting me. That bitch. I digress. So I sat down and asked myself “Self, what more can you do to attempt a loaf of meat that is edible?” That is when I thought about who Meatloaf really is, he is a homey comforting and easy dish and that is when he revealed himself to be Italian.
Calm down. I’m not cray.
Here is what I came up with for the single best bite of meatloaf I’ve ever had. I used sauteed spinach and onions, toasted pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and toasted sourdough breadcrumbs. It sounds like a lot but I assure you it was still meaty and loafy and comforting. The picture doesn’t do it justice but it was all I could do to get a photo of it before the men descended with forks and knives. I almost lost a hand for that photo, damn it. Now if you are a meatloaf hater then I do not expect this to change your mind but I do hope that it inspires you to keep looking for that recipe that does.
Italian Meatloaf that you may hate:
3 lbs ground beef
4 toasted sourdough bread slices ground to a crumby pulp (or 1 cup bread crumbs)
1 small yellow onion
2 cups (uncooked) spinach
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 177 deg C or 350 deg F
Start by sauteing your onions in olive oil. Once they become translucent you can add the spinach and pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until the spinach just starts to wilt. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.
Place ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, cheese, pine nuts, the cooled onion/spinach mixture, vinegar, oregano and a few pinches of salt and pepper in a bowl and gently mix. Form into a loaf (in my case I made two small loaves for easier serving) and bake either in a loaf pan or on a lined sheet pan for 1 hour at 350 deg.
For the green beans picture above I steamed about three cups of fresh cleaned green beans until just tender. Then I sauteed them in a tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts (since I had some left over from the loaf). I added salt and pepper to taste and they were the perfect light accompaniment to the meatloaf.
As you can see I did not cover my loaf in a sauce and that was for a purpose. I wanted to taste the loaf, I needed to know if it would stand up on it’s own without the help of slathered buttery/winey/tomato-ee sauce that would naturally make even a mud pie tasty. I’m so glad I left it naked! The menfolk loved it and I can finally find some other terrible food to beat into submission.
Myth of the Bland Meat loaf – BUSTED!