First, let me apologize for not showing the completed meal. I planned on taking a photograph after it came out of the oven, but the hunger of the grandkids took precedence.
I've been making this meatloaf since I can remember, and the recipe is similar to my grandmother's meatballs, but with a few exceptions. We'll get into that in a minute.
For as long as I can remember, this is the meatloaf we've had since I started knowing anything about food, eating, and cooking. It's been in the family for years, and I haven't changed a thing except for possibly the amounts of spices used.
I start with two pounds of ground beef. What kind of ground beef is up to you. I use an 80/20 mix most of the time of ground chuck. I do like ground chuck, and when I have the time, I grind it myself, but tonight it was all about making my life a little less stressed.
Next comes one pound of Italian sausage. I like using mild or sweet sausage, but you can use hot sausage if you want some pizazz in your meatloaf. I've used the hot sausage before, and it is fantastic and enhances the flavor.
Now it's about seasoning. As you know, I don't measure, so I'll try to give you the best guidance I can about the amounts of spices I use, but remember these are estimates, and you're going to have to figure out what you like in flavor in the end.
Before I get into the spices, let's remember we want the meatloaf to be juicy, moist, and tender inside, which doesn't happen all the time due to the oven's heat and ingredients.
For moisture, I get some white bread slices and break them up in a mixing bowl, about 4-6 slices should do depending on the size of your meatloaf. In my case, I used six.
I then either use milk or olive oil and soak the bread, and last night, I used olive oil. When I make meatballs, I always use milk, but it just depends on what I have close by with meatloaf.
Once I get the bread soaked, I add spices, starting with my mix of Italian seasonings (store-bought). I then added basil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. The salt and pepper I use are about a pinch or two of both, and everyone's pinch is different, so you use judgment when pinching. I add two pinches of crushed red pepper unless I'm using hot sausage, then I don't add the red pepper flakes.
You want your bread mix to be moist but not soggy, if that makes sense. Just enough oil to make the bread soft, moist and tasty with spices.
Put that aside for now and get back to the meat. Mix the two pounds of ground beef and the one pound of sausage thoroughly. It's sometimes hard to get the sausage to break up, but if you work the meat long enough, sooner or later, the sausage will mix in perfectly.
Once that's done, it's time to season the meat. First, add two to three eggs, and this depends on the amount of your mix. Last night I used two eggs, but I should have used three for a more binding effect, and I thought of that later when the meatloaf just fell apart from tenderness and juiciness.
Now you're going to add the bread mixture. Mix this thoroughly with the meat and eggs until everything comes together. Now we're back to adding the spices and a few other ingredients.
You're going to add ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, a little soy sauce, and mustard, preferably Gulden's. How much of each is your next question, right?
With the ketchup, I'm estimating about 1/2-3/4 of a cup. Again that's an estimate, and it's based on a total of three pounds of meat. The soy sauce was roughly about a tablespoon for my mix last night, and I added an estimated four tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. It could have been more, but more won't hurt; less will.
As for mustard, I squirted in about a tablespoon of Gulden's mustard. Now that's my difference in making this compared to my grandmother, who used grain mustard since that's all we had back then. Things change, and so do ingredients over the years.
Even More Flavoring
I then get the garlic and olive oil ready. This happens on the stove. I told you this mix was almost the same as my grandmother's meatballs, and that's her secret to making great moist and tasty meatballs. Sauteé your garlic till it's translucent with the added spices of basil, oregano, and a twist or two of Italian spices in the oil. Once translucent, add this to your mix and let it sit on the top of the mixture for a bit or till it cools off.
Once it is cooled, then get your hands ready again to mix for the last time. After this mix, you should be able to take a piece of the meat and fry it in a pan to taste what you have before you for the meatloaf. This gives you a chance to add flavoring if needed.
I recommend tasting the mix because of not using exact measurements. Then again, even if you use exact measurements from another recipe, I still recommend you taste before finalizing the meatloaf for the oven.
I use the same frying pan I sauteéd the garlic and spices in for the meat sample, and I let others test it out so that I know. When cooking for a crowd, as I do, I like to hear from the others who will be enjoying the meal.
Now it's time to get this beast of meatloaf into a preheated 350-degree oven.
But wait, one more thing to get ready. Sorry!
The topping for the meatloaf. I make this out of one can of tomato paste, ketchup, honey, lemon pepper, Gulden's mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. I added about a 1/4 cup of ketchup, a dash or two of the Worcestershire sauce, and a couple of squirts of mustard. Then it's a squeeze or three of honey with a dash or two of lemon pepper. Then mix.
Before you spread this on the meatloaf, you're going to add a few spices to the top of the meatloaf, starting with salt and pepper. The amount is totally up to you, but I recommend going easy, just enough to add flavor. Then you're going to add twists of Italian spices all across the top and try to get the sides as well.
The Cooking Part
Finally, sprinkle the top and side with lemon pepper before spreading a thin layer of your topping mix to your meatloaf. Once this is all done, it goes into your oven.
After about 30-45 minutes, take the meatloaf out and use the rest of your toping to cover the meatloaf. You should have made enough to cover the meatloaf completely, so if my measurements are off, depending on the size of your meatloaf, I apologize; add what's needed and taste your topping.
Remember what I've said repeatedly; when measuring, use your sense of smell, taste, and sight, especially when making a sauce for the topping of a recipe, like this one.
I tasted my topping sauce for this meatloaf more than a dozen times until I got the taste I wanted. So don't be afraid to taste. Start with a bit of seasoning and add more as you go.
Once in the oven for the final bake, you'll be relying on your meat thermometer if you have one. I will usually take the meatloaf out when the middle is about 155 to 160 degrees. I know what you're thinking that the edges will be overcooked, and most likely they will, but those pieces are good for the younger kids and adults who like well-done meat.
When I shape my meatloaf, it always seems to be higher in the middle and slopes down. I don't know why except all I can think of is that that's how my grandmother's always looked, so I inherently do it the same way.
It works for us since we end up with some well-done pieces of the meatloaf for the grandkids and a few adults who are into well-done beef. The rest of the meatloaf is perfect.
Don't get me wrong, even the well-done pieces on this recipe come out juicy, tender, and moist. So it's the perfect meatloaf.
If you have questions about this recipe hit me up in the comments and I'll be glad to give you some advice.