Date Posted: 12-06-2015
Meatloaf is more of an art than a science, and the loaf’s final consistency depends on a few things: How much stuff you put into the mix that isn’t meat, how thoroughly you work the meat, and what sort of binder you use. I like a meatloaf that will hold together, but loosely — cake-ish, not dense. The recipe method that follows will do that.
A couple tips: First, when you are chopping the Italian bread, wherever you have a piece with crust, cut it smaller than crustless pieces. I like having the crust in there, though, as it adds texture and flavor. Also, your ground meat (whatever it is) needs to have fat in it. Some butchers don’t add fat to ground venison, which I find weird. If yours has done this, you will need to add bacon or fatback or something to add fat here. You want about 15 to 25 percent fat in the mix, so a bit less than a quarter pound of fat to round out the meat.
This recipe calls for marinara sauce, but any simple tomato sauce will do, so long as it’s not too chunky. My sauce changes every time I make it, but use Lydia Bastianich’s marinara for a good model.
Finally, this meatloaf keeps well, and is great as a sandwich filling during the week.
Serves 4 to 6.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
- 1 1/2 cups Italian bread, cubed (see recipe headnotes)
- 1 cup milk
- 1 medium carrot, sliced
- 1 small fennel bulb, chopped roughly
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 pounds ground venison (see headnotes)
- 1 cup grated Italian cheese (parmesan or pecorino)
- 1/3 cup marinara sauce
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 3 eggs
- More marinara sauce for painting the top and serving
- Soak the bread cubes in a bowl with the milk for 30 minutes while you chop the vegetables and get everything else ready. Put the roughly chopped vegetables into a food processor and blitz them until it begins to form something of a paste. This will keep the meatloaf super moist.
- Preheat your oven to 375°F. When the bread has softened, squeeze out the excess milk and chop and mash the soaked bread on a cutting board until it too forms something of a paste. Toss it and the vegetable mixture into a large bowl. Add the ground venison, cheese, marinara sauce, parsley, eggs, salt and oregano and combine. I like to actually work the meatloaf mix well because the bread and vegetable mix will keep it moist and tender — normally you don’t want to over work meatball mixes, but this is an exception. It will help the meatloaf bind together better.
- Grease a loaf pan. I used a Pyrex 1 1/2-quart pan that is 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches. Something more ore less this size will be fine. Or, you can set the mixture on a greased baking sheet and mold it into a loaf. Pack the meat mixture into the pan and bake it until the center reads about 160°F, which will take roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes. I put the loaf pan on top of a baking sheet to catch any overflow of fat or tomato sauce.
- About 30 minutes before the meatloaf is ready (shoot for the 45-minute mark), paint the top of the loaf with marinara sauce. Have some more sauce warming in a small pot to serve with the finished meatloaf.
- Once the loaf is ready, sit it on the countertop for 5 minutes to rest before popping out of the loaf pan. Do this carefully. Slice and serve with sauce.