This Italian Meatloaf is a delicious twist on the classic meatloaf, allowing you to choose any protein of your choice. This means you get to customize with either beef, turkey, chicken, bison, or a plant-based alternative.
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Why you’ll love it
If you’re a meatloaf fan, you’re in for a treat with this Italian-inspired version.
The combination of Italian seasoning, mozzarella, and marinara sauce is bursting with flavor. It’s a crowd pleaser because YOU have the flexibility to choose your preferred protein. This means it can suit various dietary and taste preferences–just what Cheerful Choices is all about.
You’ll love this recipe too because it’s balanced in protein, carbs, and fat–making for a nourishing weeknight dinner.
Italian style meatloaf vs regular meatloaf
What sets Italian Meatloaf apart from the regular version? It all comes down to the flavors and ingredients. In place of the typical meatloaf seasonings like Worcestershire sauce and mustard, for this Italian Meatloaf we’re using an Italian seasoning blend. It also features a combo of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, adding a deliciously cheesy twist. Finally, it’s topped with a rich marinara sauce, a flavorful alternative to the classic ketchup topping.
What is the best type of meat for meatloaf?
The best meat for Italian Meatloaf depends on your preferences and dietary needs. Here’s some to consider:
- Ground beef – traditional meatloaf often uses ground beef for its rich, classic flavor.
- Ground pork – imparts a tender and juicy texture.
- Ground turkey or chicken – leaner options that provide less saturated fat but may be slightly less juicy.
- Ground bison – offers a unique taste with a sweet undertone.
- Plant-based alternatives – are perfect for vegetarians, those trying to cut back their meat intake, or for a Meatless Monday dish. One of my favorite plant-based proteins to use is Beyond Beef made with pea protein! You can’t even tell it’s not meat.
- Or a mixture – feel free to mix and match 1 pound of one meat type with 1 pound of another. We’ve tested this before with a blend of 1 pound of 97% lean ground beef and 1 pound of ground pork and it’s delish!
Is meatloaf healthy?
Absolutely! As a dietitian, meatloaf is a staple recipe in our home. Our Italian Meatloaf really packs a nutritious punch. It’s a high-protein dish which is beneficial for muscles and overall health.
Plus, the addition of garlic and onions provide antioxidants which can help lower inflammation.
Remember, balance is key in a healthy diet. This meatloaf, when paired with a side of vegetables, definitely makes for a well-rounded meal.
What ingredients do you need?
Here is what you’ll need to make this Italian style meatloaf.
- Protein of your choice: Beef, pork, turkey, chicken, bison, or plant-based ground like Beyond Beef.
- Breadcrumbs: These provide texture and help bind the meatloaf.
- Parmesan Cheese: Adds a savory kick to the dish.
- Garlic: Minced garlic cloves for flavor.
- Onion: Finely chopped onion for added depth.
- Eggs: To bind everything together.
- Marinara Sauce: Tomato-based sauce that infuses flavor. We’ve also experimented using vodka sauce in place of marinara sauce and it’s yummy too!
- Italian Seasoning: A blend of aromatic herbs for that Italian touch.
- Salt and Pepper: For seasoning.
- Mozzarella Cheese: Shredded mozzarella for the delicious melted cheese topping.
How do you make Italian meatloaf?
You only need a couple utensils and tools to make this meatloaf.
1. Mix the ingredients
Combine your chosen protein, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, minced garlic, chopped onion, eggs, marinara sauce, Italian seasoning, salt, and black pepper in a large mixing bowl. Mix until everything is evenly combined.
2. Add to pan
Transfer the meatloaf mixture to a prepared pan and top it with marinara sauce. If you don’t have the right pan, you can also use your hands to shape it into a mound.
3. Top with cheese and bake.
Finish it off with a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese. Then, pop it in the oven at 350°F and let it cook for about 50-60 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F.
4. Let it rest
This step is crucial. Normally, you cook ground meat to 165ºF but since it’s resting for 15-20 minutes, it’s safe to remove it at 160°F and let it rest to finish coming to temperature. This helps the juices redistribute, making each slice moist and flavorful.
5. Slice and serve
After resting, use a sharp knife to cut into 6 large slices or 12 smaller half slices. One half slice is considered a serving when looking at the nutrition facts for this recipe. Once cooked, serve with your favorite sides.
What should I serve with meatloaf?
Italian Meatloaf pairs wonderfully with mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, or a lemon arugula salad. Don’t forget to drizzle extra marinara sauce on top of the meatloaf for a burst of flavor.
Recipe tips and tricks
- Troubleshooting Tips: To avoid a dry meatloaf, ensure you don’t overcook it. You can use a probe meat thermometer to check for doneness if you have one.
- Scaling Tips: This meatloaf makes double the amount of most meatloaf recipes, so it can definitely serve a crowd. However, if you need more servings, you can double the recipe and use 2 – 7”x11” (2 quart) pans.
- Save Time: Don’t feel like chopping the veggies by hand? Place the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until the vegetables are minced.
Customize it your way
Like all of our other recipes, this Italian Meatloaf is completely customizable. You get to choose your preferred protein, making it suitable for meat lovers, vegetarians, or anyone in between.
- Protein of your choice – Feel free to choose ground beef, turkey, chicken, bison, or plant-based ground like Beyond.
- Cheese – This recipe calls for both parmesan and mozzarella. If you are vegan, you can substitute for vegan alternatives.
- Breadcrumbs – If you need this meatloaf to be gluten-free, swap the regular breadcrumbs for gluten-free breadcrumbs.
Making this Italian meatloaf recipe ahead of time
You can prepare this Italian meatloaf ahead of time and just don’t bake it yet. Refrigerate it until you are ready to bake.
Meatloaf is a great option for meal prep too. You can slice and distribute cooked meatloaf slices among meal prep containers to enjoy throughout the week.
How do I store leftovers?
Store any leftover meatloaf in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. For longer storage, freeze it for up to 3 months. To reheat, microwave for 1-2 minutes until warm.
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- Cooking spray
- 2 pounds (32 ounces) ground protein of your choice (lean ground beef, ground pork, ground turkey, ground chicken, ground bison, or plant-based ground)
- 1 cup breadcrumbs (sub GF breadcrumbs if gluten-free)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 3 cloves
- 1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce or vodka sauce, divided
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Spray a 7”x11” (2 quart) pan with a generous amount of cooking spray.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground protein, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic, onion, eggs, 1 cup of the marinara sauce, Italian seasoning, salt, and black pepper. Mix well until all the ingredients are combined evenly.
- Transfer the meatloaf mixture to the loaf pan and top with remaining 1/2 cup of marinara sauce followed by the mozzarella cheese.
- Bake meatloaf uncovered for about 50-60 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160°F (70°C).
- Remove the meatloaf from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Slice and serve with your favorite side dishes.