This is the yummiest new recipe post I’ve had in a long while. I had this idea maybe a year or two ago, but never actually tried making it because I was concerned it would just wind up a big gooey, lumpy mess. Boy was I wrong!
I finally bit the bullet Monday night and tried it out. Lo and behold, these meatloaves* turned out to be absolutely perfect and the cheesy middles were just divine! (Well, as divine as meatloaf can possibly aspire to be…)
*It should probably be noted that you could attempt this with a regular-sized meatloaf as well as minis, by increasing the bake time (doubling it should be about right), and then you could simplify things even more by simply placing a few string cheese sticks in the center of the loaf rather than dealing with the shredded stuff. 🙂
I like the minis for 2 reasons: (1) dinner is cooked and on the table in half the time, and (2) the meat-to-cheese ratio turned out wonderfully. The loaves kept their shape and texture while a little bit of yummy, melty cheese worked its way into each bite.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and coat an 8-portion mini loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine 1 lb. thawed ground turkey (I got mine on sale for 99 cents) with 1 lb. hot-and-spicy pork sausage (or mild if you like a more conservative meatloaf).
♥Chef’s Note: When using turkey instead of beef I like to err on the side of spicy because turkey tends to otherwise “absorb” some of the sausage flavor leaving a blander meatloaf.
Dump 1 cup fine bread crumbs over the meat and sprinkle with one teaspoon each of: garlic powder, oregano and onion powder to taste. (But do not start mixing the ingredients together yet!)
Finely chop half of a yellow onion and half of a bell pepper (I used a red one) and add to the bowl. Crack an egg or two into the bowl and squirt approximately 1/3 cup ketchup into the mix as well.
Now it’s time to start mixing it all together. I never even attempt to use a spoon when making meatloaf–I just dive in and start “kneading” it together with my clean hands. It seems to make for a much nicer texture after it comes out of the oven; I think that’s probably because you’re not over-mixing any part of it. Just work it until the big chunks of individual ingredients are no longer discernable. (This concept is akin to stirring muffin mix only until moistened and not over-mixing your muffin ingredients to get a pleasing baked good in the end.)
Once blended, divide the raw meat mixture into 8 lumps, placing a lump in each of the mini-loaf pan-forms. Flatten the mixture as best you can into all corners of the loaf shapes.
Take the back of a spoon and press down into the tops of the raw loaves, leaving an impression about 1/2″-3/4″ deep. Now sprinkle shredded mozzarella into each of the holes you just made, packing it as densely as possible. Mound the displaced meat mixture up over the top and press down to seal in the cheese. I used between 1 and 1-1/2 cups total shredded cheese for 8 loaves.
♥Chef’s Note: Be sure that if you’re using bagged shredded cheese, you either transfer an appropriate amount to a handy bowl first, or wash your hands at many intervals during the stuffing process to avoid contaminating leftover cheese shreds that are going back in the fridge for later meals!
Once all the loaves are stuffed, squirt a thin layer of additional ketchup over the top of each raw loaf. Bake uncovered approximately 30 minutes for 8 miniature loaves; be sure to adjust times appropriately for other sizes of loaf pans.
Remove from oven when meaty tops begin to brown or any mozzarella that escapes to the surface begins to turn a golden yellow.
Serve immediately. Refrigerate any leftovers; they reheat beautifully! I nuked 4 leftover mini loaves (covered loosely with a piece of plastic wrap) on one plate for 5
minutes on HIGH power and they were thoroughly heated without any underheated or overly hot patches.
For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.
Everyone makes meatloaf their own way. Some folks use crackers, some use oatmeal, others use TVP–the possibilities are endless.
For me, though, I like to stick with straight-up bread crumbs or stuffing mix for a tender meatloaf that holds together and provides lots of flavor. (With, of course, a TON of ketchup.)
Begin by preheating oven to 350 degrees. Chop 1/2 bell pepper (green or red), a small handful of parsley and 2-3 large green onions or 1/2 yellow onion
into very small pieces. (You can substitute celery for the pepper or dried parsley for fresh, if you like.)
Place diced vegetables into one side of a large mixing bowl. On the other side of the
bowl, dump 1 cup seasoned fine bread crumbs (or crushed instant stuffing mix like Stove Top).
Sprinkle 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp paprika and 1 tsp onion powder (or minced onion flakes) over bread crumb side. Add salt and pepper to taste. Over the vegetable side,
crack 2 eggs. (You can use 1 egg and some milk instead, but if your meat is particularly fatty like mine was, it’s a good idea to just use 2 eggs and omit the milk.)
Squirt about 1/3 cup ketchup over the bread crumbs and mix the two sides together with
wooden spoon or hands.
Next, add in approximately 1 lb. ground beef or turkey and 1 lb. sausage (pork or turkey variety). You can also substitute ground deer or bison for the meat. This will give you a leaner loaf.
If you’re lucky, your local discount store will sell you packaged meatloaf meat already measured and weighed together. This is a great deal if
you find it, because not only is it often cheaper than buying what you need of meat and sausage separately, but also because they tend to lean a little heavier on the
ground beef than the sausage rather than 2 even pounds. This combination makes for less grease during cook time.
I bought 2 lbs. raw meatloaf base packaged together for $3.73 at my local Mad Pricer! Try getting a decent pound of burger AND a pound of sausage for that total price!
Incorporate the raw meat into the veggie/bread crumb mixture. Add more ketchup if dry pockets won’t blend.
Coat a regular-sized loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and spoon the mixture in,
being sure to press down any sparse areas until loaf is uniformly dense and top is even.
Cover the top of the uncooked loaf with ketchup (about 2/3 cup) and place loaf pan uncovered into the oven for approximately 1 hour or until browning at edges is noticeable.
Adjust for taste; some folks like a crispy-sided meatloaf and others like it to fall apart a little bit. Bake at least 50 minutes, though, to guarantee doneness in the middle of the loaf.
Remove from oven and let stand at least 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with–you guessed it–ketchup.