Basic Meatloaf

meatloaf recipeMy mother-in-law and I had a lot of food favorites in common. This is one of her recipes. I like to make her recipes occasionally when I feel like giving the kids a happy memory of her. I can say, “Oh, kids, this is Cinny’s recipe…it is one of my favorite things that she made.” They get all puffed up with pride at the notion. As I often say, I’m never alone in the kitchen. Food memories are the best ones. They are usually warm and uncomplicated. Losing grandparents is complicated for kids. Getting excited about her meatloaf recipe is decidedly uncomplicated, and completely positive.

I have to admit I took a few liberties with the recipe. She would have envisioned this size of a batch to be for a football team. She ate like a bird. I eat like, well, a very large bird. So she would have made two loaves in loaf pans and frozen one of them. I make one giant free-form loaf. Why free form?  Well, the crusty top of the meatloaf is my favorite part. So, this way it is top all over. She approved of the free-form version and I made it often when she would come for dinner. I would make this or pot roast, our other favorite dinner-in-common. I bake the meatloaf with nothing slathered on top, but I love chili sauce on the side.

One of the secrets to her stellar meat loaf was the meat. Seems obvious enough, right? But instead of using only beef, she used beef, veal and pork. It is simply wonderful. The rest of the ingredients are extremely basic. I don’t doll up my meatloaf too much. I like it…basic. However, this works fine with all beef, if your butcher doesn’t have ground pork or veal. I always get the “meatloaf mix” at Kuby’s, where they sell all three meats.

I hope you try this. And if you do, remember, this one is from Cynthia.

Meatloaf Recipe Ingredients

Basic Meatloaf
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
I owe this great meatloaf recipe to my late mother in law, Cynthia. She and I shared an affinity for meatloaf, mashed potatoes, pot roast, and her son.
  • ¾ pound ground beef
  • ¾ pound ground pork
  • ¾ pound ground veal
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • ¾ cup plain bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten lightly with a fork
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 4 ounces milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, using a fork, break up and combine the three kinds of meat. Try to combine them without mashing them.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, salt and pepper. In another small bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. In a measuring glass, combine the tomato sauce and the milk. You may not need all of the tomato sauce mixture.
  4. Add the onions and bread crumb mixture to the meats and, using the fork, toss them and mix them into the meats. Again, try not to mash the meat. Add the eggs to the meat mixture and mix it to distribute it evenly throughout the meat. Finally, add the tomato sauce mixture and mix it into the meat. Add sauce until the meat mixture is wet, but not soupy. Use your hands to fully mix all of the ingredients together and make it into a ball shape in the bowl.
  5. Place the meat mixture onto a rimmed cookie sheet that has been double lined with foil. Form it into an elongated loaf that is about 5” across. The more even the shape, the more evenly it will bake. Bake the loaf for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees. Set the oven to the broil setting, and broil for 2 minutes if the meatloaf isn't nicely bronzed yet. But set the timer and check often. Do not burn! Remove the meatloaf from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Meatloaf Mixing IngredientsServe with mashed potatoes. You must serve this with mashed potatoes. You must. I can’t think of a meal I would rather have when I need comfort food. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes are always just the right thing. By the way, have I ever told you the secret to my mashed potatoes? Along with the butter (always added to the hot potatoes first), milk, salt and pepper, I always add a handful of shredded parmesan cheese. It adds a really nice nutty flavor but nobody ever guesses that there is anything of the sort in the mix. Try it.

Meatloaf BakedNote: If you find yourself lacking chili sauce or ketchup, take some tomato sauce and simmer it with a few tablespoons of brown sugar, a little vinegar, some cayenne and cracked red pepper. It makes a completely serviceable chili sauce.



  1. Joey says

    You shared this recipe with me years ago and I make it all the time. JR and Marty both love it. When I serve this dish it is our way to share great memories of Cynthia and your family. Love you!

  2. Elsa says

    Kelly, I have a Cinny cookbook. Anytime she spoke to me of a recipe she liked, she would write it on a recipe index card, usually decorated with a bird. I put these cards into a photo album which is with my other cookbooks. Cynthia was a very special friend, which I believe one finds only once in a lifetime, if one is lucky. How I miss her!!

  3. says

    Kel, This made me teary and filled my heart with joy and warmth. I just wish I had been sitting in your kitchen when it came out of the oven…and I can’t wait to get my very own Sissy Stick.

  4. Rebecca says

    Don’t forget to add green peas to this menu. Then it is totally over the top as comfort food and my absolute favorite meal. I will try “Cinny’s recipe”. All meatload is good eating!

  5. Susan Marie says

    I’m a big fan of meatloaf, and think nothing’s finer than a sandwich made with the leftovers! Love the sissy sticks.

  6. Beth says

    Kelly & Val… made me tear up too…. I have a lot of those index cards with her recipes, too.
    thinking of her so much lately!!

  7. Jenny Stroup says

    Thanks for sharing memories of Cynthia and cooking. I think of so often when I’m at the Thrift Shop working and at home in my kitchen. She was “one hell of a woman” and she bragged often of her daughter-in-law’s blog!
    Hope you all are doing well.
    Jenny Stroup, Scottsdale

  8. Kelly says

    Jenny, we are all doing great. Thank you for your sweet comment. I know she loved all of you at the thrift shop very much.

  9. Kelly says

    Val, Beth, Elsa, and Joey…she left a lot of great memories, and thankfully, lots of great recipes too.

  10. Philly says

    Are your gourmet treenware spoons available on line or is there an address where they may be ordered and shipped to me for my wife and daughter, ok and me too when I’m allowed in their kitchens?

    I really like your basc recipe, save for the tomato sauce with milk. I like my meatloaf and mashed potatoes drenched with good brown gravy. I’m adding the onions grated in a blender with water the drained. I’ve not been able to eat onions since we were required to live on raw onions for almost a week during “HELL WEEK” for college fraternity initiation. I can eat fried onions, onion rings, sauteed but not in the white/yellow.

    Hope to hear from you on those spoons.

    Philly frm Chicago

  11. Kelly says

    Hi. We have a restaurant here that offers tomato sauce OR gravy for the meatloaf, and nobody is lukewarm about the decision. You are solidly in one camp or the other. Except me, actually…I think the gravy sounds great, too. I totally understand about the onions. As for the spoons, YES…I do have them online. Here is the link to PIE’s Etsy shop:

    There is a shop section called “Treenware by Nancy Lou.” Thanks for your interest.

  12. Carole says

    Lovely work! Would you be happy to link it in to the current Food on Friday which is about veal? This is the link . I do hope to see you there. Cheers

  13. Barbara says

    I made this meatloaf today – just for me. I have never made one with the three different meats. Oh my – I can’t wait to eat leftovers tomorrow. I’m wishing now I had not frozen half of it. Mac and cheese is a great sub for the mashed potatoes.


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