Not just another meat loaf . . . A few simple tips to make this taste so good and so Italian — you will swear you're in Italy. I kid you not. Especially the sauce. It's spectacular!
I promise, I am not exaggerating. This is not just "another meat loaf" with ground beef/mince mixed together with some random Italian herbs.
Oh no. This is so much more than that! THIS is made in the spirit of homemade Italian sausages. Have you ever made Italian sausages? I have. They taste amazing. They require specialty equipment to grind pork shoulder, electronic scales to get the exact amount of herbs and salt, and of course, the sausage machine to pipe the sausage mixture into the casings.
I don't have all that equipment in my humble kitchen. But I've manage to re-create the flavors in this ridiculously delicious Italian meat loaf!
As I alluded to above, the seasonings for this meat loaf are akin to homemade Italian sausages. However, I make my meat loaf with a combination of beef and pork, rather than just pork, which is what Italian sausages are made of. The pork adds juiciness; the beef is the main flavor base.
The crowning glory of this is the tomato sauce. Oh my. THIS is the key differentiating factor in this recipe. Most meat loaves are not made with a sauce. But there are two things that make this sauce seriously delicious:
- I add the juices in the meat loaf pan into the sauce. Why throw out free flavor?
- The meat loaf finishes cooking IN the sauce. Which means all the juices from the meat loaf release into the sauce AND the base of the meat loaf sucks up the marinara sauce flavor. Win-win!
LOOK how juicy this meat loaf is! I use my secret tip to make this with bread soaked in grated onion rather than breadcrumbs. It's the same technique I use for my Italian meatballs that readers are raving about!
I know I rambled a bit, so here's a quick recap of why I love this Italian meat loaf so much and why it is not like the usual:
- It actually does taste like it is Italian. It tastes like a meat loaf beef version of Italian pork sausages, thanks to the subtle combination of beef and pork mince (ground meat), red bell peppers/capsicum, and fennel seeds.
- The sauce is made extra tasty by adding the meat loaf pan juices into the sauce AND by cooking the meat loaf for part of the time IN the sauce. Flavor on flavor on flavor!
- I swear, the meat loaf is made even juicier than usual by cooking it partly submerged in the sauce. It surely must suck up some liquid??
- I also use my technique to soak bread in grated onion rather than using breadcrumbs. My theory for why this makes a difference is that the breadcrumbs expand when cooked, creating little air pockets. The use of grated onion also makes this meat loaf extra tasty. This is the same technique I use to make my classic Italian meatballs extra soft and juicy
Have I convinced you yet that this is worth trying? — Nagi x
- Tomato passata is pureed tomatoes, plain, without any salt or other flavor additions. Nowadays it is readily available at supermarkets, usually in the pasta section. It costs around the same as tinned tomatoes. If you can't find it, use crushed tinned tomatoes (you can use a blender to puree it, if you want, to turn it into passata!).
- "Overhang" simply means using a bigger piece of parchment/baking paper than you need so you can lift the meat loaf out of the pan by holding the paper.
- If you don't have a loaf pan, shape into a loaf and place it onto a baking tray.
- Meat Loaf
- 1 1/2 cups diced red bell pepper/capsicum (1 large)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups stale white bread, crusts removed, roughly diced (about 3 slices)
- 1 small onion
- 2 tablespoons cream (or milk)
- 13 ounces/400 grams ground pork (mince)
- 1.6 pounds/800 grams ground beef (mince)
- 2 eggs
- 2 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 3 teaspoons paprika (sweet or smoked)
- 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped (brown, white, yellow)
- 1.4 pounds/700 grams tomato passata or crushed tinned tomatoes
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 teaspoons dried mixed Italian herbs
- 1-3 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- Make the meat loaf: Preheat oven to 180&Deg;fC/350°F. Spray a 28-centimeter/11-inch loaf pan, then line with parchment/baking paper, leaving overhang.
- Heat oil over high heat. Add bell peppers, leave for 1 minute without stirring so it starts to char (burn), then stir and continue cooking to char it more (about 2 minutes in total). Remove and set aside.
- Place bread in a large bowl. Grate onion into the bowl, using a box grater. Add cream, then use your hands to squidge the mixture together so the bread is completely soaked and starts to disintegrate. Add remaining meat loaf ingredients, including bell peppers. Use your hands to mix it together until JUST combined. Do not overmix, otherwise it will become dense.
- Press into the loaf pan. Drizzle with olive oil, then bake for 30 minutes.
- Make the sauce: Meanwhile, heat oil in a ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes until translucent. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes on the stove, adjusting salt and pepper to taste. Take it off the heat.
- Take the meat loaf out of the oven. Carefully lift the meat loaf out of the loaf pan (using the paper overhang) onto a work surface. Then transfer the meat loaf into the skillet with the sauce. Pour juices in the loaf pan into the skillet. Return to the oven for a further 30 to 40 minutes, or until cooked to your liking.
- Take it out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve the meat loaf with the sauce, garnished with parmesan, if desired. I like to serve this with mashed potatoes, but it is also lovely with pasta.
- Main Dishes, Beef
- Serves 6-8
- Total Time
- 1 hour, 15 minutes
- Calories per serving