Meat Loaf (or Meatballs)


The best ever, super-flavorful and always moist.
TIME 45 minutes to 1¼ hours, mostly unattended
MAKES 6 to 8 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil, optional
½ cup bread crumbs, preferably fresh
½ cup milk
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ onion, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage leaves or 1 pinch dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices bacon, optional


Method
1 Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan with the olive oil. Soak the bread crumbs in the milk in a large bowl until the milk is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

2 Add the meats, egg, Parmesan, parsley, garlic, onion, sage, and some salt and pepper and gently fold everything into the meat with your hands or a rubber spatula. Mix just enough to distribute the flavorings without overworking the meat or it will become tough.

3 For meat loaf: Turn the meat mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, gently shaping it into an oval mound. Drape the bacon over the top if you’re using it. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, brushing occasionally with the rendered pan juices. When done, the meat loaf will be lightly browned and firm. To check, insert a quick-read thermometer into the center; it should read 160°F. Let the loaf rest for 5 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife.

For meatballs: Shape the mixture into balls of any size and put them on the prepared baking sheet or roasting pan. It’s okay if they touch a little; they’ll shrink as they cook. Figure that 2-inch meatballs will take 25 to 35 minutes to cook and add another 10 to 15 minutes for every additional inch in size.

Variations
  • Other Ground Meats to Try: Veal, lamb, pork, turkey, and chicken all make an excellent base. Chicken and turkey could definitely use the bacon topping since they’re so low in fat.
  • Pan-Cooked Meatballs: This requires more attention, but the outsides become super-crisp. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add some of the meatballs, being careful not to crowd the pan. Turn them as they release to brown on all sides and transfer them to paper towels to drain as they finish cooking.
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs: Add cooked meatballs to a batch of gently bubbling tomato sauce while you set pasta water to boil.

Tips
  • Soaking bread crumbs in milk seems like a strange step, but it really helps. The bread soaks up the milk and redistributes it throughout the meat, keeping it moist.

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