Chef John's Meatball-Inspired Meatloaf


The main point of this Italian meatball-inspired meatloaf is to show you what happens when you make meatloaf like your grandparents did. During the Great Depression, this type of dish was a popular strategy for stretching what little meat you had into as filling a meal as possible.

Prep Time:
20 mins
Cook Time:
1 hr 15 mins
Additional Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs
1 meatloaf


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 1 onion, diced

  • salt to taste

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 ½ cups very dry white bread crumbs

  • 1 ½ cups milk

  • 2 pounds ground chuck

  • ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

  • 2 large eggs, beaten

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste

  • 3 cups tomato sauce, or to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.

  2. Heat olive oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion with a pinch of salt in hot oil and butter until onion is golden brown and soft, 5 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove skillet from heat and cool onion mixture to room temperature.

  3. Place bread crumbs in a large bowl. Add milk and stir with a fork until combined. Let sit until all of the milk is absorbed into the breadcrumbs, 15 to 20 minutes.

  4. Combine ground chuck, cooled onion mixture, parsley, Parmesan cheese, eggs, 2 teaspoons salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Grab a handful of breadcrumbs and squeeze very gently to remove excess milk. Repeat with remaining breadcrumbs, transfer breadcrumbs to ground chuck mixture, and discard excess milk. Stir ground chuck mixture until evenly combined.

  5. Turn chuck mixture out into prepared baking dish, and shape meat into a 3x4x10-inch meatloaf. Pour tomato sauce over the loaf and into the bottom of the dish.

  6. Bake in the preheated oven until no longer pink in the center, about 1 hour 10 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). Let meatloaf rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

    close up view of Meatball-Inspired Meatloaf served with mashed potatoes and arugula salad on a white plate
    Chef John

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

286 Calories
15g Fat
19g Carbs
20g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 10
Calories 286
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 15g 19%
Saturated Fat 6g 30%
Cholesterol 86mg 29%
Sodium 1129mg 49%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 7%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 20g
Vitamin C 11mg 53%
Calcium 167mg 13%
Iron 3mg 17%
Potassium 483mg 10%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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