Kitchn Love Letters

I’ve Been Making This Meatloaf for Over 7 Years. Here’s Why

updated Apr 27, 2021
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Credit: Patty Catalano

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. And we decided to start sharing some of our absolute favorites with you. Here’s a peek into what we’re cooking and eating in our own kitchens.

Meatloaf gets a bad rap simply for being what it is: a loaf of meat. But I dare you to turn down a platter of tomato-glazed mini meatloaves. Picture them: Tidy, juicy mounds of meatloaf capped with a burnished red glaze, nestled in a buttery swoosh of fluffy mashed potatoes. It’s pure comfort.

Meatloaf is a no-fuss dinner. It’s not difficult to prepare, and as long as it isn’t overcooked or under-salted it’s satisfying. But these tomato-glazed mini loaves are some of the best I’ve ever had. 

In a room full of food fans at Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta years ago, the room hummed with excitement. We were there to meet blogger and newly minted cookbook author Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. She was every bit as endearing in person as she seemed online, but my biggest takeaway from that night was not her signature in my Smitten Kitchen Cookbook — it was a meal from the book that made its mark. And I still make it seven years later. 

Credit: Patty Catalano

The Tangy, Tomato Glaze Is Better than the Bottle

This meatloaf is simple, but it’s anything but boring, and that has a lot to do with the tomato glaze topping. Start by simmering vegetable oil, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, and salt until it’s smooth and glossy. Yes, this is just homemade ketchup, but it has a rich, tangy flavor that makes it worth the effort. Almost all of the ingredients for the glaze are also included in the meatloaf itself, so you save little by substituting a dollop of Heinz. (Resist the temptation!)

Credit: Patty Catalano

Use a Food Processor

Start the meatloaves by making fresh breadcrumbs in the food processor. Thanks to this recipe, I committed to keeping a stash of breadcrumbs in my freezer — ground from the ends of sandwich bread and stale buns. Once your sliced bread is pulsed into crumbs, tip them into a large mixing bowl. Keep the food processor handy. The machine minces aromatics to a size that incorporates them seamlessly into the meat. Errant chunks of carrot or stringy celery are a thing of the past. Then sauté the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot with a generous glug of olive oil until everything is soft and golden. 

Credit: Patty Catalano

Mini Loaves Are a Weeknight Win

Toss with the breadcrumbs, let cool, then add the beef, eggs, milk, and seasonings. I had to work to find smoked paprika when I started making this recipe, but now you can find it stocked in most grocery stores. A handful of chopped fresh parsley adds a vibrant flavor to the rich and meaty loaf. Once all of the ingredients are combined, make them into miniature meatloaves (or oversized meatballs) and top with a spoonful of glaze. I’ve made this mixture in loaf pans and freeform on foil-lined baking sheets, but I always come back to the individually sized portions and shorter baking time of the mini loaves. And although I don’t always make the mashed potatoes, steamed green beans are a must!