Italian Meatloaf

by | Jan 15, 2024

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.

Large slices of meatloaf next to spatula

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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 meatloaf on serving pan

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.

All Italian meatloaf ingredients on white backdrop

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.
Italian Meatloaf topped with melted mozzarella cheese in a white baking dish

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.

Mozzarella cheese on top of pan

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.

Baked Italian Meatloaf with a gooey cheese crust, ready to be sliced and served

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.

Golden-brown cheesy Italian Meatloaf fresh out of the oven, served alongside green asparagus

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.
Hearty Italian Meatloaf in a ceramic dish, perfect for a comforting family meal.

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.

Savory Italian-style meatloaf with a bubbly cheese topping, accompanied by mashed potatoes and green beans

Need more help with recipes for your busy schedule?

In my coaching + cooking program, I help busy people with beginner cooking knowledge become confident in the kitchen so that they can enjoy nourishing foods they love and stress less about mealtime. Click here to learn more about this virtual program led by a dietitian.

Italian Meatloaf 18

Italian Meatloaf

Mackenzie Burgess, RDN
Italian Meatloaf is a delicious twist on the classic. Plus, you get to customize with beef, turkey, pork, chicken, bison, or a plant-based alternative.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Rest Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 12 slices (~2×3 inches wide each)
Calories 250 kcal



  • 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.



Resting Note: As this will be resting for 15-20 minutes after taking it from the oven, it is safe to remove at 160°F and let it rest to finish coming to temperature. This helps the juices redistribute, making the meatloaf juicier.
Nutrition may vary depending on ingredients used. This calculation is for 97% lean ground beef. For more nutrition information, seek a professional registered dietitian’s advice.


Serving: 1sliceCalories: 250kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 28gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 5gSodium: 460mgPotassium: 400mgFiber: 0.5gSugar: 2gCalcium: 200mgIron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Tag us @cheerfulchoices and let us know how it was!

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Slice of meatloaf next to blistered green beans and mashed potatoes

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Hi, I'm Mackenzie...

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I’m a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and recipe developer. I create simple recipes with customizable ingredients “of your choice.” I also help busy people gain kitchen confidence through my hands-on program.

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  1. Ashley Schuering

    5 stars
    So simple and yummy! I used ground turkey and jarred marinara sauce. I’ve never even considered a cheesy topping for meatloaf and now I’m obsessed. Thanks for a great recipe!

    • Mackenzie Burgess

      Oooh yes love the use of ground turkey for this italian meatloaf! The cheese is definitely unique but tastes SO good. So glad you loved it. Enjoy! ~Mackenzie

  2. Megan

    5 stars
    This thing was huge and so flavorful! I’m so grateful to have a recipe where a meatloaf will actually feed a crowd. Thank you so much!

    • Mackenzie Burgess

      It definitely is a crowd sized meatloaf! But also makes for great leftovers! So glad you enjoyed it! ~Mackenzie

  3. Heather @ Fit Mama Real Food

    5 stars
    This was so yummy! I always do a bbq sauce type glaze on my meatloaf but the cheese was so good! Thanks for this awesome recipe 🙂

    • Mackenzie Burgess

      I feel like you can’t go wrong with cheese! So glad you enjoyed it! ~Mackenzie


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