Meatloaf is one of those random dishes that unless you’ve had it as a child, you probably don’t really come across. It feels quite old fashioned to me, and isn’t the prettiest but it’s tasty and low effort. And you can add a couple of variations to the standard classic meatloaf recipe.
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It was meal we’d often have as children. A regular Saturday meal, it was easy to make after we’d got back from music school and dancing. And something that’s always hard for the family cook, it was a meal that everyone would eat.
I was fussy as a child – I’d find any tiny piece of onion, didn’t like pepper or courgette, and just liked quite plain food. I’m much better now (better than the OH, because he doesn’t eat whole cuisines, whereas my dislikes are more polarising ingredients in general). But N is fairly similar in his dislikes. He’ll eat most things, but does moan about obvious onion, and won’t eat cooked pepper (although he likes it raw).
When I cook with mince, I usually add what vegetables I can. Not because N won’t eat veg (he is a big fan of most vegetables), but because many mince based dishes don’t really go with extra veg on the side. So I’ll add onion for taste, then add in chopped courgette, peppers, sometimes carrot. Whatever I’ve got that I can get away with, without the OH having a moan about the odd additions.
So my meatloaf includes vegetables as well. I just chop them up small – with this dish celery, pepper (green works best, but I’ll use whatever we have in), and courgette all work fine without being a really obvious flavour to detract from the meaty flavour. You could try lentils I suppose, or some small beans (or mushrooms if you like them). Obviously you’ll add breadcrumbs to bulk and dry the meat out a bit, but adding veg isn’t going to stop it being meatloaf, but it’ll also bulk it out meaning less meat is needed if you’re on a budget. Plus of course, it’ll be healthier.
I make my own breadcrumbs with my ancient bargain chopper, and store them in the freezer. They’re great for coating chicken or fish or adding to stuffing for roast chicken, and saves throwing out slightly stale bread.
We usually have the meatloaf with boiled potatoes or mash (at the request of the OH) and green vegetables, but I prefer serving it on tagliatelle with the vegetables. My mouth is salivating at the thought of it.
You can find the recipe below, along with some tips on variations.
Chose your vegetables. My staples for adding to meals are peppers, onions and celery. (Strictly speaking it should be green pepper for meatloaf but I didn’t have any.
After softening down the veg in a little oil, mix in with the mince, breadcrumbs, sauces and seasoning. I added a bit of cheese this time too.
Line your loaf tin with foil then bacon for extra flavour.
Put the mix into the tin and smooth the top.
Make a channel in the top and put tomato and basil sauce in it. You could go a bit spicy if you prefer.
Top with the remaining bacon before cooking in the oven until cooked through and the bacon is crispy.
Turn out, slice and top with remaining tomato sauce (home made or shop bought).
Easy beef meatloaf recipe
- 500 g minced beef
- half red onion finely chopped (or 2 shallots)
- 1 stick celery finely chopped
- 1 green pepper deseeded and diced
- 1-2 cloves garlic depending on taste
- 50 g breadcrumbs
- 1 egg beaten
- 4-6 rashers unsmoked bacon optional (back or streaky – if streaky, you might want more rashers)
- Parsley – dry or fresh
- Basic tomato and basil sauce
- Squirt tomato puree
- Worcestershire sauce optional
Preheat oven to 200C (180C fan assisted)
Heat a bit of oil in a frying pan and soften the onion, garlic and whatever veg you’re using.
Put the veg into a bowl, add the mince and mix together. Using hands usually works best.
Add the breadcrumbs, then the egg, a squirt of puree and Worcestershire sauce if using. Mix to blend. Then season with pepper, and salt if required. The mix shouldn’t be too wet, if it is, add a few more breadcrumbs
Take a loaf tin. If it’s not non-stick (or you want to make it easier to clean), line with foil.
Line the tin with bacon – on the bottom and up the sides. My tin takes 4 rashers
Dollop in the meatloaf mix and smooth down the top
Make a line down the top of the meatloaf, and add some tomato sauce to fill in. This just adds a bit more moisture. Top with the last couple of rashers of bacon if you need to use them up, and like really crispy bacon (or add them halfway through cooking).
Cook in the oven for around 1 hr 20 minutes. Check after 45 minutes and cover with foil if it’s getting too crispy.
Depending on the meat’s fat content, you might need to drain the liquid off partway through.
Once cooked through, turn out onto a serving plate and serve slices on either cooked tagliatelle with a chunky tomato sauce on the side, or with new potatoes and veg
Make your own tomato sauce from chopped tomatoes, pepper and oregano or basil. I tend to use shop bought chilled tomato and basil pasta sauce.
If you want to vary it again, Nigella’s meatloaf recipe has a couple of peeled boiled eggs in the centre. I’ve also heard someone else say they use lamb mince for their version of meatloaf, and a mix of beef and pork mince works well. Just vary your herbs to suit. I added some grated cheese that need using up this time too.
Don't panic if your meatloaf looks a bit pink after cooking. It will take on some of the bacon colour.
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