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Italian Meatloaf

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Think of this Italian meatloaf as one big giant meatball, packed with familiar flavors but on a grander, more satisfying scale.

Sliced Italian meatloaf on a platter.

My family loves this delicious Italian meatloaf that is essentially one big giant meatball, or an Italian version of my classic meatloaf. It’s comforting and satisfying, and the smell of it baking in the oven always lures everyone to the kitchen. I serve it with a big Italian salad and Parmesan smashed potatoes, but it is also delicious with pasta or creamy polenta. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, the meatloaf is even better the next day, sliced and topped with melted cheese in a warm sandwich.

To make the recipe quick and easy, I use a food processor to chop the vegetables. I also cheat and use a good-quality store-bought marinara sauce; the recipe only calls for 3/4 cup, so there is no need to make it from scratch. It’s easy to make two meatloaves, so you might as well—one to freeze and the other to bake straight away.

“So I made this meatloaf on a whim…My husband and my in-laws LOVED it. I was so proud!!”


What You’ll Need To Make Italian Meatloaf

ingredients for italian meatloaf

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin by chopping the vegetables. I use a food processor, which makes it quick and easy. Always rough chop the veggies before putting them in the machine, otherwise they won’t chop evenly.

roughly chopped vegetables in food processor

You want to pulse until the vegetables are finely chopped but not puréed — this makes for a nicely textured meatloaf.

minced vegetables in food processor

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet and cook the vegetables until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

sautéed vegetables in skillet

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the eggs with the Worcestershire sauce, basil, salt and pepper.

eggs, basil, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper in bowl

Whisk to combine.

whisked egg mixture in bowl

Add the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, and cooked vegetables.

adding the meat, vegetables, bread crumbs and cheese to the egg mixture

Mix with your hands until well combined.

italian meatloaf mixture in bowl

Shape the meat into a 9×5-inch loaf on a greased, foil-lined baking sheet. I prefer to “free-form” it rather than cook it in a loaf pan — that way, the fat cooks out and there’s always enough well-browned crust to go around.

free-form italian meatloaf on baking sheet

Top with marinara sauce, letting a bit drip down the sides.

topping italian meatloaf with marinara sauce

Bake for 65 to 70 minutes, until cooked through, then scrape away any fat that accumulates around the meatloaf.

cooked Italian meatlaof

Slice the meatloaf and serve.

Sliced Italian meatloaf on a platter.

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Italian Meatloaf

Think of this Italian meatloaf as one big giant meatball, packed with familiar flavors but on a grander, more satisfying scale.

Servings: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 75 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes


  • 1 small onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 pounds meatloaf mix (or use 1½ pounds 85% lean ground beef plus ½ pound ground pork)
  • ⅔ cup Italian-style bread crumbs
  • ¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ¾ cup marinara sauce, plus more for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Place the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until the vegetables are minced. (Alternatively, you can mince all of the vegetables by hand.)
  3. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the minced vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Do not brown. Let cool until just warm.
  4. In a bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients, whisk the eggs with the basil, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce.
  5. Add the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, and cooked vegetables to the egg mixture and mix with your hands until evenly combined.
  6. Form the meat mixture into a 9x5-inch loaf shape directly on the prepared baking sheet. Spread the marinara sauce evenly over top, letting it drip a bit down the sides.
  7. Bake for 65 for 70 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F in the middle of the meatloaf. Let the meatloaf rest for about 10 minutes. Scrape any fat away from the edges of the meatloaf (it will ooze out and brown while baking), then use a wide spatula to transfer the meatloaf to a cutting board or serving platter. Slice and serve with more marinara sauce on the side, if desired.
  8. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The cooked meatloaf can be frozen for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, defrost it in the refrigerator for 24 hours and then reheat it in a 300°F oven until hot in the middle. You can also freeze the meatloaf for up to 2 months before baking. Wrap the shaped loaf tightly in plastic wrap, then in foil. Add the marinara sauce after defrosting, when you are ready to bake and serve.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 585
  • Fat: 42g
  • Saturated fat: 15g
  • Carbohydrates: 15g
  • Sugar: 4g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 35g
  • Sodium: 966mg
  • Cholesterol: 180mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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  • Tasteless and bland, with a rather unpleasant texture. A complete fail. The Parmesan smashed potatoes were no better.

    • — Mike Pogson on April 2, 2024
    • Reply
  • This was delicious! I omitted the basil just because I like a more traditional meatloaf and substituted marinara with crushed tomatoes and then sprinkled that with brown sugar to make it sweet. Thanks so much for sharing another home run dinner!

    • — Kathy on March 25, 2024
    • Reply
  • DELICOUS!!! We loved this meatloaf! Leftovers were great too and heated up so nicely. I also froze some in individual slices. Great to defrost just the amount needed for a quick meal. I served it with penne and additional sauce and a tossed salad.

    Such a versatile recipe…this time I used 1# ground round, 1/2# ground venison/pork mix and 1/2# sweet italian sausage because that’s what I had on hand. Will definitely be making it again and again. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

    • — Cheryl B on March 13, 2024
    • Reply
  • This is the second time I’ve made this. I added the pork this time and it made it so much tastier than all beef. I also topped it with leftover sauce from beef braciole I made a couple days before. It was insanely delicious! Thanks Jenn!

    • — Jan on March 9, 2024
    • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious! The meatloaf mix I purchased was only 1.5lbs. Otherwise, I followed the recipe as written. Moist, lots of good flavor. My family is already looking forward to the next one!

    • — Kate D. on March 6, 2024
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  • I finally made this recipe last night as I already had my own meatloaf recipe I have been using forever. I have been cooking Jenn’s recipes for about 7/8 years now so I finally decided to try hers. Hubby voted “yay!” As we vote for new recipes. Well, what else is new with Jenn? Her recipes consistently deliver! I had no celery so I omitted without substituting. He said it was very flavorful! Will be adding to my monthly recipe rotation! I love Jenn and am very grateful she is willing to share her knowledge and creativity with us to make us pretty darn good cooks! 💕 her 2 cookbooks are the bomb as well!

    • — Frenchiecookingmama on February 27, 2024
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  • Best meatloaf ever! I’ve been making meatloaf for 50 years, this is the best recipe I have encountered. Also, very easy. Lots of flavor. The recipes published on Once Upon a Chef are consistently excellent. Thank you for another winner.

    • — Patricia McConville on February 19, 2024
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  • Jenn, your Italian Meatloaf recipe has been my go-to recipe for a couple of years now; it’s just fabulous! Everyone I’ve served it to has raved about the flavor and wanted the recipe. I also love your Meatball recipe. I usually make two batches, freeze them on a baking sheet, and put them into a zip lock bag back into the freezer. That way I can take out the number I need for each meal.

    • — Loree S on February 15, 2024
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  • I made this and it was perfect! All of my family loved it. It actually does taste exactly as my meatballs. I also use my own sauce.

    • — Pina Della Rocchetta on February 12, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hi, I made this for the first time. It was tasty if you like a meatball kind of flavor. (Not my fave, but my husband loved it.) My only problem was, as written, it tasted very salty to me. I notice the nutrition info says 966 mg of sodium per serving. That’s an awful lot for those with health issues related to sodium. So if I make it again, I will reduce the salt by half. I think the recipe has plenty of flavor and would not be bland even with less salt.
    I appreciate Jen giving the nutrition info for each recipe. Thank you for that!

    • — Sarah E. on February 2, 2024
    • Reply
  • My family and I absolutely loved your “Turkey Meatloaf” recipe!! The meatloaf was flavorful, moist and was so easy to make! Making it again!

    • — Diana Casareale on January 19, 2024
    • Reply
  • It was ok! Not sure if I would make it again? Followed the recipe exactly.

    • — Marsha on January 10, 2024
    • Reply
  • Made Meatloaf Sun night and it was terrific; even better were the leftovers (as I’m only cooking for 2) They were better than the original Sun meal. The Italian meatloaf was a great dinner and topping was a big hit Used to a ketchup-brown sugar recipe. This was way superior

    • — Nick F on January 9, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn
    Would it be okay to use gluten free bread crumbs and if so should i add seasoning to them or will it taste good with plain?
    Thank you so much

    • — Melissa on January 2, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Melissa, it’s fine to use FG bread crumbs but I’d add some seasonings so the flavor comes through. Here’s a recipe you can use if you’d like (or you can just wing it using some of these spices). Hope you enjoy the meatloaf!

      • — Jenn on January 2, 2024
      • Reply
  • Hey Jenn

    I decided to make my first meatloaf and since I trust your expertise I chose your recipe and it was delicious that Marinara sauce was a nice additon 😋 My friend from New Jersey is calling me to ask how I made your French Rustic Apple Tart, she loved the photos I sent her. Even my nephew from England wants to try it, he is 20 and learning how to cook.

    Thanks for so many wonderful recipes
    Happy Thanksgiving from Canada 😀

    • — Kinga on November 20, 2023
    • Reply
  • We make this almost weekly! My son drives from college for our Sunday Meatloaf Lunch! Thank you so much for sharing this with our family!

    • — Naomi on September 26, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn
    Question: would love to make your meatloaf for a friend after surgery
    What amt of onion powder is substitute for the raw onion.
    She can’t have veggies with skin for now.

    Thank you, Rose Kidd

    • — Rose Kidd on September 7, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Rose, I’d say a teaspoon. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on September 10, 2023
      • Reply
      • Hi Jenn,

        The meatloaf was delicious!!!
        I even used dry basil. Thank you.


        • — Rose Kidd on September 12, 2023
        • Reply

    • — CATY on July 18, 2023
    • Reply
  • Call me obscene but, yesterday, I made half the recipe for this meatloaf, but made meatballs instead [1.5 inch, baked at 325°F for 25 minutes, as instructed in the Swedish Meatballs recipe], and tucked them into subs with a home-made marinara & some mozzarella. Served alongside the Big Italian Salad to assuage some of the guilt. Sooo goood!

    Needless to say, this is one of my fave recipes in this blog 🙂

    • — Helen on May 15, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen:

    Can the meat loaf be assembled and bake the next day?

    • — Isabelle on May 6, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure – enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 8, 2023
      • Reply
  • My husband an I just made this meatloaf! It is the most delicious meatloaf we have ever had!! We will definitely make this again!! Thank you very much!!

    • — Leah on April 1, 2023
    • Reply
  • So I made this meatloaf on a whim. Since I love the stew recipe I figured it would be a safe bet to try this meatloaf one. My husband and my in-laws LOVED it. I was so proud!! Father in-law said it’s the best meatloaf he’s ever had.

    • — Julie Lewis on March 21, 2023
    • Reply
    • It was excellent meatloaf. I added black olives, (cut into small pieces about 1/4 cup) just before molding it and cooked it in a loaf pan. The prep was time consuming, but otherwise excellent.

      • — Peggy on March 28, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen,

    Hubby is asking if the sauce can be replaced w/ BBQ sauce. Can it?

    • — Mlak on March 7, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Mlak, it can, but if you want a BBQ meatloaf, I’d suggest this one — it’s delicious!

      • — Jenn on March 8, 2023
      • Reply
      • Thanks Jenn ! Can the pork beef mix here be used in that recipe instead of ground turkey?

        • — Mlak on April 16, 2023
        • Reply
        • Sure!

          • — Jenn on April 17, 2023
          • Reply
  • This was really good! So quick and easy and lots of flavour. I used ground beef because it was a holiday so the stores were closed and it turned out great. Next time will try the meatloaf mix.
    Thanks Jenn!

    • — Ginette on February 21, 2023
    • Reply
  • Spectacular. A huge hit with everyone. Perfect texture. Perfect seasoning. Thank you!

    • — Karen on February 21, 2023
    • Reply
  • “This is the best meatloaf I’ve ever had!” said my husband as he was enjoying this last night. He renamed it meatball loaf. It is sooo good! It reminded us of the meatball appetizer we enjoy at our favorite Italian restaurant. The consistency and flavor is wonderful. I served it with a big salad and garlic bread. Can’t wait to try it as a sandwich with provolone melted over it. Another winner Jenn!

    • — Laura Cox on January 10, 2023
    • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious, thank you. The only deviation I made was oven temperature, cooked it in 180c for 40 minutes. It was perfect, moist and all the flavors just jumped out at you.😊
    I do have one question, I have a number of friends who don’t eat pork, can I make it with all beef? My concern is ending up with a much denser dryer meatloaf.

    • — Johara on January 6, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Johara, The meatloaf may not be quite as moist as with the pork, but it will still be delicious.

      • — Jenn on January 7, 2023
      • Reply
    • I used half ground beef and half ground turkey and it was moist and delicious.

      • — Peggy on March 28, 2023
      • Reply
  • Fabulous recipe, did not think one could improve on meatloaf. Thank you and I served it with the Italian Salad – what an awesome dressing. I am a total fan.

    • — Louise Neveu on December 30, 2022
    • Reply
  • Made it today for Christmas dinner. Followed recipe exactly. The meatloaf was devoured!

    • — Anna Lisovskaya on December 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • My husband hates meatloaf I learned when starting to make this. I had beef which had to be used that day so made it to freeze slices for myself. Eventually…” OMG. This is the best meatloaf I have ever had.” I added four tables spoons of chopped sauteed mushrooms ( a staple in our house) and shaved Parmesan under and over the tomato sauce. Beyond that, it was made as written though cooked in a casserole dish. It cooked in less than an hour, but I used a thermometer at the one-hour point and it was 180. I saw you advised someone to go with 160 or 165 I believe. That response saved mine. Maybe that is why someone thought it was dry. It was the first meal in a new home and new stove. Thanks so much. Best wishes for the new year.

    • — Chip on December 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • Followed the directions exactly, and it came out too dry and dense for my liking. Also, it was pretty tasteless. One of the very few Jen recipes I have not greatly enjoyed.

    • — John A on December 15, 2022
    • Reply
  • Tried this meatloaf recipe. turned out very good

    • — ERNIE on December 12, 2022
    • Reply
  • Just did this for dinner, followed the instruction (no extra spice as I usually do), but forgot the cheese! And guess what, it came out perfectly…… I will add the cheese next time because this is an awesome recipe and so good. Thank you.

    • — Carren Reisinger on December 11, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this last night for dinner and it was a hit for my entire picky family!! I will make it again next week for our office potluck!

    • — Narine on December 11, 2022
    • Reply
  • Made last night. Very good. Could have used a bit more “Italian” zing such Tuscan seasoning. Used a perforated foil platter on a rack to drain off as much grease/fat as possible … it works. Cook time was more than the recipe called for, but worth the wait. Will make again

    • — Jamie K on December 11, 2022
    • Reply
  • Absolutely the best meatloaf recipe I have ever made! Instead of preparing it as a loaf, I made meatloaf squares using a rectangular cake pan with 2″ sides. Just as delicious but with more room on the plate for veggies or a side salad.

    • — Adriana G on December 10, 2022
    • Reply
  • Will gluten free breadcrumbs work okay in this recipe?

    • — Pat on December 10, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on December 12, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, 3/4 cup parmesan cheese…wondering what size grater you use. Also do you pack the cheese into the cup? Or go by weight? Would 3 ounces by about right?
    Thanks so much!
    Ally in New Jersey 🙂

    • — Ally O'Connor on December 9, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Ally, I use the smallest holes on the grater and I don’t really pack it into the cup. It would be about 2.5 ounces (but you really don’t need to be that exact — as long as you’re close, you’ll be good). Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 14, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hello! We don’t eat beef. Is there a way to make this with pork only or ground turkey? Your advice is appreciated. Thank you!

    • — Neha on December 8, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure! If you use ground turkey just make sure not to get the 93/7 version — if you go leaner than that, the meatloaf will be dry. You may also want to check out this turkey meatloaf of mine. Hope you enjoy whatever you make!

      • — Jenn on December 9, 2022
      • Reply

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