Friday, February 21, 2014

Italian Cheese-Stuffed Meatloaf

This recipe takes meatloaf to a flavorful, cheesy new level. I've been making this for 12(?) years, and we still love it. The original recipe came from one of those little recipe booklets that sit at grocery store check-out lines. (I used to have a real addiction problem when it came to those little booklets...) If you don't want to mess with the swirl of cheese inside, you can just form the meat mixture into a loaf and cook it that way. I've also made this into mini-meatloaves and meatballs (formed around a small square of cheese), and it's always a great thing.

I know this post would benefit from step-by-step pictures of how to roll the cheese up inside the meat mixture, but I didn't get any this time, and I really want to share this recipe with you. I'll update the post with some pictures one of the next times I make it. In the meantime, I'll try to be super clear on the rolling-up process. It's not hard. You can totally do it.

I used my favorite pizza sauce for this, but you can use store-bought if you have it. Though this homemade recipe is so good and easy you won't want to use store sauce ;) I also want to say that since I hate touching raw meat and having to get it out from under my fingernails, I wear disposable latex gloves. I only want to use one pair, so I get everything ready for assembly so I don't have to take off the gloves to get anything or tear more foil.

Sometimes I also add black olives and chopped, roasted red bell peppers to the cheese filling. It's also super-yum. I should also tell you that sometimes the cheese will break through and bubble out. Even after all these years of making it I've been unable to tell why it does sometimes and doesn't other times. So be prepared for the cheese to make a break for it, just in case. It's not as pretty when it happens, but it's still just as tasty.

A fun historical fact: Back when my husband and I were just starting to date, he was at my house and he was hungry. I told him I had some of this meatloaf in the fridge. He made himself a sandwich with a slice of the meatloaf and two slices of bread. Yep. I'm pretty sure that's when he knew he wanted to marry me.

Italian Cheese-Stuffed Meatloaf
printable recipe

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
2 eggs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh crack black pepper to taste
1 cup pizza sauce, divided
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese

1. Heat your oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with olive oil or non-stick spray. Tear a second, large sheet of foil and set it aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, basil, eggs, garlic, salt and pepper, and 1/2 cup of the pizza sauce. Mix well with a rubber spatula or your hands (I think hands work best. Yes, I wear my latex gloves).

3. On the second sheet of foil, shape the beef mixture into a rectangle that's about 12x10-inches. (Still have my latex gloves) Top with the cheese leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Starting at a short end, roll up the meatloaf jelly-roll style. The easiest way to do this is to use the foil as a guide: as you pick up the edge of the foil the meatloaf will want to automatically roll in on itself. As you roll it up try to keep it pretty tight on itself. When you've finished rolling it up, seal the seam  and both ends by gently squishing the meat together. Transfer the meatloaf to your prepared baking sheet, seam side down.

4. Bake the meatloaf for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, spread the remaining 1/2 cup pizza sauce over the top and sides, and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the loaf is thoroughly cooked in the center (about 160deg). Let the meatloaf rest for 8-10 minutes before slicing.

Makes about 8 1-slice servings.

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