the perfect meatloaf

Reading, writing, editing, reading and editing some more. In between that, I’m a busy mother of a teen and a wife. One of my favorite for pleasure only pastimes—and what I used to use to pass the time when I became an unemployed housewife/stay-at-home mother an eon ago when, as an American, I married a Canadian and couldn’t work for two years until I was through the immigration process—Cooking.

I’ve always loved working in the kitchen. From the time I was old enough for my mom to let me have free rein to try some yummy sounding recipe I’d scrounge from one of her ancient and obscure cookbooks—she had dozens—I’ve loved cooking and baking. For a time in high school, I even dabbled in cake decorating, taking a mail-order Wilton course. I wasn’t so bad, if I may say so myself. I’ve always loved making garnishes and fancy party platters. The veggie bouquet was so pretty, my writer’s group almost refused to eat it!

Now, I use cooking as a mini escape. When I’m in the kitchen, I don’t really have to think about anything serious, or I can think about what I want to, not what I should. I sometimes run scenes in my head that need work in a current writing project. Other times I crank up the TV and watch an episode of Dr. Phil, or something else just as mind numbing, while I cook.

I cook by taste often, making soups and stews without recipes, but most of the time, if there’s anything that takes steps or a lot of ingredients, I use a recipe.

About a year ago, I tried something new. I tried to make the perfect meatloaf by taste.

Let me start by saying I hate—loathe—other people’s meatloaf. I have a couple recipes I make that are very yummy, but I’ve never, ever in my life, tasted meatloaf that I could say I truly liked outside of my own or my mother’s.

I tasted the perfect meatloaf in this little restaurant in Vernon, BC.

Hubby and I were on our anniversary getaway weekend and had dinner at the most amazing little restaurant in Vernon. The owners walked among the tables, chatting away with their customers, and the food, though laid out on a buffet, was the best home-cooked meal I’d had outside of my mom’s house.

As we came to learn from the owners—a husband and wife team—most of the recipes were family secrets from the wife’s family in Kentucky. She wasn’t about to give up her recipe to me.

The obsession began. Stay out of my way!

I had to figure out what was in the meatloaf.

Well, the rest of dinner—so much for the romantic anniversary meal—was spent with me and a serving of that meatloaf, pen and paper. I was bound and determined to figure out how to make this stuff. It was moist, and the flavor bursts in your mouth. It was sweet—but not too sweet—and tangy. Definitely an Italian flavor.

When I got home, I set to work. It took me four or five tries, but with hubby’s taste buds to help, I finally did it. I made the perfect meatloaf—in my opinion.

Here’s the recipe. If you try it, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

I simply call it Italian Meatloaf. It serves up well with creamy garlic mashed potatoes, Greek salad, and fresh corn on the cob.

Spice Mix:
• 1 Tblsp of each: Oregano, dry mustard, onion powder, basil
• 1 tps thyme
• 2 Tblsp garlic powder
• 1.5 tsp pepper

Meat Loaf Ingredients:

• 2 cups chunky pasta sauce, homemade is best, extra thick.

My recipe follows, but you can use canned. I prefer the less salt approach so make my own.

o 1-14 oz can of diced tomatoes
o oregano, basil, coarse black pepper, minced garlic (to taste)

Chop following veggies into very small chunks:

o ½ orange or yellow bell pepper (color makes it pretty)
o ½ med size onion
o 1 stalk celery
o 3 medium white onions

Cook down until veggies are tender and moisture is mostly cooked away or, if too moist, add a few tablespoons of tomato paste.

• 2 lbs. extra-lean hamburger or turkey
• 1 small onion, diced into small chunks
• 3 slices of bread, crumbled. (I use Italian bread crumbs usually.)
• 1/4 cup ketchup or chili sauce for sweetness (MUST USE or will be too tart/tangy!)
• 1-2 tablespoons horseradish
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• Dash or two of Tabasco (optional if you don’t like a little heat)
• 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

• parmesan cheese
• 1/4-1/3 c of the pasta sauce
• 1/3 c shredded cheddar cheese, (or any of your favorite Italian cheeses).

Preparation Of The Meat Loaf:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all of the ingredients, except the topping, in a large mixing bowl.
Then, place the mixture into a 9x9x2 pan and spread it evenly into a pan.
Cover with tinfoil and bake for about 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours.
Drain off the excess liquid, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and “ice” it with the pasta sauce. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top of icing. Sprinkle with a few parsley flakes for prettiness if desired.
Bake about 15 more minutes uncovered, or until the cheese is lightly toasted and melty.

Anna Leigh

9 responses to “the perfect meatloaf

  1. Yum, Anna… This looks/sounds fantastic!! Now I’m hungry for mealtoaf, and it’s only 6 a.m. …

  2. I never make it but this sounds like an easy recipe I could do, especially now that the weather is getting colder. Brrrrr. I’m with Lisa, only 10 am but I’m hungry already!


  3. I want to come to your house for dinner! I’m a child of the forties and I grew up on meat loaf and it is still one of my favorites.


  4. Yum yum – can you bring me some leftovers on Saturday?


  5. I’m joining Wally. Better set two extra places. 🙂

    This looks like one of those recipes I’ll pull out as the weather grows colder. You will definitely hear back when—not if—I try it. Thanks for the yummy post.

  6. Oh my! That sounds so yummy. Thank you for sharing this recipe, add me to the list of people who will be trying this out very soon.

  7. I’d love to hear what you all think if you try the recipe. I was pretty happy with the pictures, too! *grin* Sorry, Kate… You know who I live with… leftovers? What’s that???

  8. Just letting you know that I made this last night for a few friends and it was an absolute hit. The meatloaf was so moist and delicious, although next time I may had in a bit more horseradish and mustard for a bigger kick of flavor.

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