Meatloaf is one of those love/hate foods — either people really love it or they really. . . don’t. And, bless its heart, meatloaf won’t win any beauty contests.
I’ve always wondered why general meatloaf opinions are so polarized — it s a comfort food, after all. Maybe there are just too many poorly made meatloaves out there that gave the rest of them a bad rap. Or perhaps bad memories of sub-par school lunch meatloaf.
I was going to call this “Polka-Dot Meatloaf” to try and make it sound cuter, but I don’t think that would have been a good idea. I think meatloaf should just own up to its appearances. Some of the best dishes (especially those that come out of a slow cooker or Instant Pot) aren’t particularly attractive.
My mom made great meatloaf when I was a kid so I’ve always had a positive association with it. I suppose, like a lot of foods, if it’s made well it can be spectacular.
She used rolled oats in her meatloaf (which is quite common), and if you use certified gluten free oats, you could keep this gluten free. Same goes with gluten free breadcrumbs. I wanted to take it a step further and make it grain free as well so I didn’t use oats or bread crumbs in this meatloaf mixture.
Baking meatloves in a loaf pan is super common. You could also use a baking sheet. I actually use a 7×11 glass baking dish. I like my meatloaves “free form”.
My only beef (har har) with meatloaf is the amount of ground beef you use for one loaf. It usually requires two pounds for a good-sized loaf, and it might be the only recipe I make that requires that much meat to feed our family of six for one meal. I can usually stretch a pound of beef pretty far.
I’ve seen meatloaf recipes using ground turkey or pork and those are good, too. I think turkey meatloaves need a lot of mix-ins to keep them from drying out (like sauteed/roasted vegetables) and pork meatloaves would be super greasy. Using some mixture of turkey and pork and beef would be good, too.
Luckily we get grass-fed beef AND pastured pork from the local University ranch so it’s manageable. And a special treat.
Once I had some marinated mozzarella cheese balls leftover from a cheese platter and had a hankering for meatloaf. I think that’s how a lot of recipe ideas are born — leftovers + cravings. It’s not very scientific, but most of my favorite creations have come about this way. And mozzarella stuffed meatloaf sounded pretty fantastic.
A logical pairing with mozzarella is marinara sauce, so that’s what I used for the sauce. Most meatloaves have some sort of barbecue sauce or ketchup, which you could also use (gluten free ketchup is easy to find!). I thought the marinara would compliment the Italian seasonings in the meatloaf itself.
It’s basically a giant, mozzarella-stuffed meatball. Ha.
And I can add this gluten free meatloaf to that list of favorites! All of my kids loved it, too, and we barely had any leftover.
This meatloaf is actually grain-free, too, and you can make it dairy-free by omitting the cheese if you like.
The other nice thing about meatloaf — well, nice, depending on how hungry you are — is that it takes a while to bake. That leaves you over an hour to clean up a bit and put a side dish together.
Here are a few easy gluten free sides that would be PERFECT matches for this meatloaf!
- Mashed Root Vegetables with Bacon Vinaigrette
- Roasted Shredded Brussels Sprouts
- Caesar Salad
- Baco-fried Green Beans
- Easy Balsamic Roasted Vegetables
- Crispy Lemon-Garlic Fingerling Potatoes
My favorites from the cookbooks are the Avocado-Stuffed Taco Meatloaf (Yes, I’m serious. It turned out WAY better than I expected!) and the BBQ Bacon Meatloaf & Potatoes — BBQ sauce smeared all over meatloaf and potatoes that are ALL cooked in an Instant Pot together!
Using a slow cooker or Instant Pot makes meatloaf extra moist and flavorful — although you don’t get a browned crust on it unless you pop in under the broiler after it has cooked. (Might be worth the effort.)
Anyway, here’s the recipe you’re looking for! I’d love to hear what you think — leave me a review or drop a comment and tell me!
- 1 pound ground beef (grass-fed, if possible)
- 1 pound uncooked bulk Italian sausage (pastured/grass-fed, if possible)
- 2 egg whites
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1 Tablespoon coconut flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 12 ounces small mozzarella balls
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a medium sized glass baking dish (7x11 or 9x13) with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl combine the ground beef, Italian sausage, egg whites, garlic, almond flour, coconut flour, salt, pepper, pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning. Toss everything together gently with your hands until everything is evenly incorporated. Avoid squeezing the mixture in your fists as you may end up with mushy meatloaf. Add the mozzarella balls and gently fold them into the mixture, keeping them in tact.
- Gather the meat together in the bowl in one large mass, and transfer it to the prepared baking dish. Shape the meatloaf into an oblong form, trying to keep the thickness even throughout.
- Bake for an hour.
- Combine the marinara and balsamic vinegar. Pour the mixture over the meatloaf and then return the meat loaf to the oven for 10-15 more minutes until it is cooked through and the sauce is bubbly.
1. You can absolutely make this without the mozzarella if you need it to be dairy-free.
2. Make sure the marinara isn't chilled when you pour it over the meatloaf or it may cause a glass baking dish to shatter. You can leave the marinara at room temperature for an hour while the meatloaf bakes if you need to.
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