The inspiration for this meatloaf came from an unusual source - a "throwdown" with Bobby Flay. It was a few years ago, and I came across the meatloaf episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Bobby Flay made a Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf with Balsamic Glaze, and he was competing with the traditional Meatloaf Recipe of the Collucci Brothers (and I won't spoil the ending for you by telling you who won). I had always loved my dad's meatloaf recipe, but I never had my own recipe. After watching that episode, I wanted to eat a big slice of both meatloaves, and so I started experimenting.
Both Flay and the Collucci Brothers made free-form meatloaves, so I decided to ditch the loaf pan and just use a half sheet pan with parchment instead. Flay also used lots of vegetables in his meatloaf, and so I decided to add a variety of vegetables to my own meatloaf. However, while the word "roasted" in Flay's meatloaf refers to the fact that he cooks the meatloaf itself at a higher temperature, I had the idea to roast the vegetables as well before adding them to the meatloaf. I've continued to experiment with my meatloaf recipe through the years, but the roasted vegetables are here to stay.
There are a few steps involved in making this meatloaf, but each step adds a layer of flavor. You start with the vegetables, chopping them into big pieces and then roasting them in the oven to bring out the flavor. Then you chop all the vegetables together in the food processor, making a roasted vegetable purée of sorts, and then add it to the meat. I always include a can of tomato paste in my meatloaf, which is something that my dad used to do. I just love the rich flavor of tomato paste - it keeps the meatloaf moist and adds the tomato flavor without any ketchup (or tomato soup).
I used lean turkey in this meatloaf, because I really wanted to experiment with how much fat you can eliminate and still produce a really tasty meatloaf. I used to buy a "meatloaf mix" from Mario's Meats in Michigan, which was a combination of ground meats that worked really well. Bobby Flay mixed ground chuck, ground pork, and ground veal to make his. I generally don't eat red meat anymore, so I gave turkey a shot using my old recipe and didn't miss the beef a bit.
I made some mashed (or "smashed") potatoes because they're one of C's favorite side dishes and the perfect accompaniment to a hot slice of meatloaf. While I don't really have a "recipe" to include for my mashed potatoes, because I make them differently every time, I do have a few mashed potato rules that I follow:
1. Never peel the potatoes. Wash them really well instead, and peel off any tough parts on the skin, which should only take a second. Keeping the skins on allows you to get all the nutrients in the potato, as well as all of the fiber. Besides all of that, I just love the texture of mashed potatoes with the skins. And who wants to sit around peeling potatoes?
2. Never add more than a couple Tablespoons of butter to your mashed potatoes. Greek yogurt, light sour cream, reduced-fat cream cheese, and Parmesan cheese are all great additions to mashed potatoes and really replace the need for butter. I generally use a teaspoon or two of Earth Balance, and then I add a little bit Greek yogurt, almond milk, and Parmesan cheese in stages, mashing in between, until I get to the right flavor balance. Try using some reduced-fat buttermilk - you'll get lots of richness and moisture without all the fat of butter and cream.
3. Never whip the potatoes. LOTS of people will disagree with me here I'm sure, but I never whip potatoes and always use an old-school masher instead. Do I own a hand mixer and a stand mixer? Yes, but I would never use them with potatoes. I like my potatoes to taste like potatoes, with skins and texture. I suppose there is a place for light, airy whipped potatoes, but next to a slice of meatloaf isn't it.
4. Don't forget to season the potatoes. Experiment with the seasonings that you add to your potatoes. I like to add Lawry's seasoned salt sometimes, or minced or roasted garlic, or even some green onions or chives. If the potatoes don't taste quite right, add a little extra salt and pepper and you might not need to add anything else.
Enough about the side dish, on to the main course.
Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf (Serves 8-10)
1 onion (Vidalia and Spanish onions work well), chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 carrot, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 small- to medium-sized zucchini (or summer squash), chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 sweet bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange), cored and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 pounds of lean ground turkey
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (Panko, Italian, or homemade all work)
1 can tomato paste
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce (Frank's and Tabasco work)
1 egg, beaten
Optional: 2 Tablespoons to 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus an extra pinch for the vegetables
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced (if you have access to it - if not, leave it out or add a pinch of dried thyme)
Pinch of salt and black pepper
*Tomato Balsamic Glaze or Ketchup Balsamic Glaze (optional, but see below)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper.
1. Add the onion, carrot, zucchini, and pepper pieces to the baking pan. Season with a bit of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Drizzle with olive oil, and toss the vegetables to coat.
3. Transfer the vegetables to the food processor bowl. Pulse until they are chopped, but not completely puréed.
purée to a large mixing bowl, and then add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl. Mix well with clean hands or a mixing spoon. Then transfer the meatloaf mixture to your second prepared baking pan. Press down on the mixture to get rid of any air pockets, and form into a loaf. (If using the Balsamic Ketchup Glaze, see below for the recipe, and brush the glaze on at this point)
5. Transfer the pan to top rack of the oven. Optional Ina Garten tip that keeps the meatloaf extra moist: Fill a baking dish with an inch or two of water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven below the meatloaf. Bake the meatloaf at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes, until the meatloaf is cooked through and the edges are browned.
Meatloaf is one of those dishes that's great hot, warm, room temperature, or even cold on a sandwich. I won't even get started on how much I love meatloaf sandwiches...
The following is something that you can make on the stove while the meatloaf is baking and your potatoes are boiling, and it takes very little effort. It adds so much flavor though, and really puts the finishing touch on the meatloaf.
Tomato Balsamic Glaze
1 medium tomato, roughly chopped (beefsteak or on-the-vine work well)
2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1. Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan over medium heat.
2. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the glaze has thickened and the tomatoes have broken down.
Balsamic Ketchup Glaze: Mix together 1/4 cup ketchup, 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Brush the mixture over the entire loaf before baking.
Both sauce methods are really good, and I decide which one to use depending on how much time and energy I have that day. The ketchup method is definitely easier, but tomato glaze really adds a nice touch if you want to serve this at a dinner party.
By the way, meatloaf is an awesome meal to serve to a crowd. You can do as much of the work ahead of time as you like. I recommend at least roasting and puréeing the vegetables ahead of time, and then just keeping the mixture in the fridge until you're ready to prepare the meatloaf. It will save you a ton of time.
This will make 8-10 servings, but assuming you like to eat big slices like I do, here are the nutrition fact for one slice of meatloaf (without the glaze), assuming you get 8 servings total.
Serving Size 212 g