Until two years ago, I hated meatloaf. Hated it. I found it dry, the seasonings unappealing, and the thought of ketchup plopped on top of the loaf just grossed me out. Plus, loaf? Ew. That does not sound appetizing.
All that changed when I ate this meatloaf.
I got the recipe from one of Evan's law school friends' wives. We'd been invited over to Brian and Megan's house (while we were still living in DeKalb) for one of those "Mystery Dinner" things. You know, where you have to figure out who the murderer is throughout the evening? Well, we got our invitations that included the characters we were and how we were supposed to dress up. Now, for those of you who don't know me well, I superdy duperdy love love love this kind of stuff. So, I was super excited. We showed up (dressed as requested) and said our hellos to the hosting couple and the couple we didn't know. I was putzing around in the kitchen, asking if Megan needed any help, when I asked what smelled so good. She said meatloaf and I instantly cringed. I hated meatloaf. I looked over at where the sides were being cooked and tried to decide if there was enough for me to eat to substitute the lack of meatloaf I'd be eating.
We started playing the game, drank some fabulous wine served with delicious appetizers, and then it was dinner time. I'd eaten all of my salad (and part of Evan's) and waited for the meatloaf thinking that I'd eat the smallest piece known to man and then eat a mountain of mashed potatoes. When Megan served the meatloaf, not only did it look completely different than any meatloaf I'd ever eaten, it smelled absolutely divine. She cut me a piece and in the middle of the meatloaf was a layer of mozzarella cheese and spinach. I took one bite and was instantly hooked for life. It was moist and flavorful and cheesy and perfect. I asked her for the recipe when we left.
The first few times I made this meatloaf, I was frustrated that I couldn't keep the cheese and spinach in the loaf. It kept splitting and falling apart while cooking. I eventually found a similar recipe to Megan's meatloaf and decided to combine the two to make them my own. And here it is.
First, the ingredients.
2lbs. ground beef; 1 egg; 8oz. marinara sauce; 1/4 C. Italian style breadcrumbs; 1/4 tsp. pepper; 1/4 tsp. salt; 1/2 tsp. oregano; 2 C. shredded mozzarella; 2 C. fresh spinach leaves.
Here is my first advice tip: Do not skimp on the poundage of meat. You absolutely need 2lbs. in order for the meatloaf not to fall apart. It doesn't have to be beef--it could be beef, turkey, pork, whatever ground meat you choose. Just make sure it is at least two pounds.
In a large mixing bowl, put in the beef...
1/2 C. of the marinara sauce...
breadcrumbs...but, I didn't have bread crumbs. So, I improvised. I took one piece of bread and tore it up and put it in my food processor.
Instant bread crumbs. :)
Now, pour in half a cup of the bread crumbs. And with the rest, just let them air dry until they're stale and then put them in a ziploc baggie and save them for later.
Add the salt, pepper and oregano.
Now, take off your rings and start mixing it up. You don't have to use your hands to mix it, I suppose. But, I do.
Make sure that you mix it until it's all blended together and looks like this.
Now,take half of the meat mixture and put it in a baking dish. Form it into a loaf.
Take the 2 C. of mozzarella (or any Italian type of cheese. Or any cheese, really.) and pour it on top of the loaf. Try to keep it all flat and press it gently into the meat.
Take the spinach and place it on top of the cheese. Now, fresh spinach is fantastic in the loaf, but I was out, so I used frozen. Just as good, but use less then 2 cups. I used one cup.
Take the other half of the meat mixture and put it on top of the spinach and start closing the loaf together. This is why you need to make sure that you are using the full two pounds of meat. The meat needs to be able to cover the cheese and spinach layer and meat in the middle.
Pinch the edges together until it's closed like this. I have a few pieces of cheese that snuck out from the middle, but no big deal. It'd be huge holes in the sides you'd want to avoid.
You're going to bake this for one hour at 350 degrees. Then it will look like this:
Spread the remaining marinara sauce (or a tad more, if you're like me) and throw it back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
Ta da! Yummy meatloaf! (in a photograph taken at an angle that might make you a bit dizzy, apparently) I moved it from the original baking dish because the loaf was sitting in the juices of the meat and cheese and it isn't very appealing to eat something swimming in grease juice, if you ask me. (No, seriously...why does my meat loaf look like it's floating in this picture? No, it's not the angle, because when I flipped it sideways, it still had the same effect. Hmm...)
See how the layer of cheese and spinach is perfectly perfect in the middle? See how Evan put himself into my food shot? Silly, Evan.
This meatloaf is so juicy and so perfect. The sauce and the cheese and the spinach combine with the meat to make the meal so flavorable you might eat it all in one sitting. Or at least beg for seconds.