Real Good Meat Loaf

Ingredients (17)

  • 1 large red onion, chopped medium
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound mushrooms (tame or wild), trimmed and halved
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • 1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup packed freshly grated Pecorino
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 pounds ground round
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves
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Real Good Meat Loaf

Oh, I know: You’ve got a meat loaf recipe already. Well, I think there can never be too many meat loaf recipes, and I wish you’d try mine. It’s an Italian-American one, with sausage meat in it. The whole point is leftovers.

There’s nothing better than a meat loaf sandwich. The question is what kind of sandwich are you going to make? Here are two ideas, but I’d bet you have some of your own.

Break up some escarole into small pieces, season with salt and pepper, and dress with olive oil and vinegar. Use a bit more vinegar than you would if you were going to serve this as a salad. Make a sandwich with cold sliced meat loaf and close-textured white bread.

Slice some meat loaf and heat it in a small skillet with the leftover pan juices. Slit open a hard roll and add the hot meat loaf and some of the juices. Eat it this way, or cover with a slice or two of mozzarella, run it under the broiler to melt the cheese, and enjoy.

Of course, if you have enough left over, you may want to have another dinner. Pour some of the pan juices into a large skillet. Slice the meat loaf and make a single layer of slices in the pan (or overlap them slightly). Spoon on more pan juices, cover, and heat over medium heat until piping hot.

This recipe was featured as part of our DIY TV Dinners story.

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Tips for Beef and Pork


  1. 1Heat the oven to 350°F, and oil a large casserole, say a 3-quart rectangular one.
  2. 2Combine the onion with 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring once in a while, until the onion is turning gold at the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, until fragrant. Scrape into a large mixing bowl. Set the pan aside.
  3. 3Meanwhile, process the mushrooms in batches in a food processor until minced very fine. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet and turn the heat to medium high. When the oil is shimmering, add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring and scraping, until the mushrooms brown. They will throw off a lot of liquid as they begin to cook; don’t fret. When the mushrooms are browned and sticking to the skillet, stir in the tomato paste. Cook for a minute or two, until the tomato paste turns brick red. Pour in the wine and turn off the heat. Stir and scrape the pan to release any bits of mushroom, and scrape into the bowl with the onions.
  4. 4Put the tomatoes in the food processor and whir them around until they are chopped pretty fine. Add about 1 1/2 cups of the tomatoes to the mixing bowl, along with the Pecorino, breadcrumbs, eggs, parsley, basil, and thyme. Season well with salt and pepper. Crumble in the sausage and get your hands in. Mix very well, breaking up the sausage as small as you can.
  5. 5Crumble the ground round over the meat loaf base and toss it in gently with your hands—as if you were tossing a salad. Don’t go overboard though; if you overwork the beef, you end up with a tough meat loaf. Of course, if you don’t mix it well enough, the slices will break. So just be gentle and thorough. Keep breaking the clumps of beef up with your fingers and tossing, but don’t squish the meat with your hands.
  6. 6Put the bay leaves in the casserole and form the meat loaf on top of them. Season the rest of the tomatoes with salt and pepper and pour over the top.
  7. 7Slide the meat loaf into the oven and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Take out your handy instant-read thermometer; you want an internal temperature of 155°F.
  8. 8Let the meat loaf rest for about 20 minutes before transferring it to a big platter. Tilt the pan and spoon off any fat from the juices. Pour the juices over the meat loaf, and serve. When you come across the bay leaves, leave them on the platter.

Beverage pairing: Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel, California. The sweet Italian sausage, pepper, and mushrooms are just crying out for a slightly spicy wine redolent of cherries and dried herbs—Zinfandel fits the bill. This one, besides being one of the best, also has lovely structure, making it a good choice with food.

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