The first time I made meatloaf for the man who is now my husband, he took one look at the slice on his plate and asked, “You call this meatloaf?” And while it was certainly meatloaf to me, it was many moons away from the version he grew up eating.
Mine, which was closely related to the one my mom had always made, featured strands of grated carrots and potatoes running through the ground meat, and it was seasoned with plenty of minced garlic.
His meatloaf of memory was more closely related to the classic version, complete with moistened white bread kneaded in and a baked-on glaze of ketchup and brown sugar. I’m still trying to find an approach that marries our two ideal versions into one harmonious loaf. (I think there might just be deep lessons about life and marriage embedded in this search.)
I’ve actually found that we’re both most-happy when I don’t try to replicate either of our traditional meatloaves but, instead, opt for recipes that do entirely different things with ground meat, binders and seasonings. These days, we’re digging Eggplant Parmesan Meatloaf from Giada De Laurentiis.
The meat is combined with lots of basil, Parmesan cheese, eggs, chopped onion, garlic and tomato sauce. After it’s fully cooked, you arrange slices of lightly fried eggplant on top and garnish them with more tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Baked until the cheese is melted and golden, it’s a winner of a Weekender.
Before you start cooking, read these tips:
— When it comes to making meatloaf, particularly one with so many flavorful ingredients, don’t be afraid to use your hands to mix everything together. You’ll get better integration, and you won’t have to dirty another utensil.
— Go for lean beef! Other people who have made this recipe have commented that they ended up with a great deal of greasy runoff from their loaves. I used beef that was 90-percent lean and didn’t have any issues with excess grease.
— Use temperature as your judge of doneness, not time. Giada’s instructions tell you to cook the meatloaf for 20 to 25 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 160 degrees F. My loaf took nearly 35 minutes to reach the proper temperature.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.