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Italian Meatloaf

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This Italian meatloaf is basically one big giant meatball, or at least that’s what I tell my kids so that they’ll eat it.

italian meatloaf

This Italian meatloaf is basically one big giant meatball, or at least that’s what I tell my kids so that they’ll eat it. But, seriously, it is similar to meatballs, only it has a lot more flavor and is easier to make. I like to serve it with my Big Italian Salad — a firm family favorite — and Parmesan Smashed Potatoes, but it’s delicious with pasta too. Leftovers are even better the next day, sliced and topped with melted cheese in a warm sandwich.

What you’ll need to make italian meatloaf


As you can see, I use a good quality store-bought marinara sauce. Feel free to make your own, but I don’t think it’s worth it since the recipe only calls for 3/4 cup.

to make italian meatloaf


Begin by chopping the vegetables. I use a food processor, which makes it quick and easy. You want to pulse until the vegetables are finely chopped but not puréed — this makes for a nicely textured meatloaf. (And always rough chop the veggies before putting them in the machine, otherwise they won’t chop evenly.)


Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and add the vegetables.


Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Then let cool.


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


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


And mix with your hands until well combined.


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.


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


Bake for 65-70 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board or serving platter. Enjoy!


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Italian Meatloaf

This Italian meatloaf is basically one big giant meatball, or at least that’s what I tell my kids so that they’ll eat it.

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


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon 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


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 5-7 minutes. Do not brown. Let cool until just warm.
  3. In a bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients, whisk the eggs with the basil, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce.
  4. Add the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, and cooked vegetables to the egg mixture and mix with your hands until just evenly combined.
  5. 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.
  6. Bake for 65-70 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.
  7. Note: If serving with mashed potatoes, you might warm up some additional marinara sauce for serving.
  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.

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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  • The meatloaf was delicious. We ate the meatloaf with your creamy mashed potatoes and your green beans with shallots. The quality of the final product looked like something you would see in a restaurant. Thank you!

  • I’m so glad I did tried this! I’ll definitely make again. What other recipes do you have that use marinara sauce? I tried a search in your search bar but it didn’t pull up any recipes.

    • Glad you liked this! A couple of other recipes that call for marinara sauce: Spaghetti and Meatballs, Chicken Parmesan, and Turkey Meatballs. Hope you enjoy if you make any of them!

      • I’ll try the chicken marinera next. I’m sure it will not disappoint. Love your recipes!

      • This recipe sounds amazing.

        Can I use all lean ground beef rather than a mixture of beef and pork? Also, can Arrabiatta Sauce be used in place of marinara

        You are my go to culinary “cook book” so, I recommend your site to many friends here on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

        Thanks for the wonderful recipes.


        • — Sharron Scheibel on December 21, 2020
        • Reply
        • So glad you like the recipes! The meatloaf may not be quite as moist as with the pork, but it will still be delicious. And yes, you can use arrabiatta sauce in place of the marinara as long as you’re okay with the added spiciness. Hope you enjoy!

          • — Jenn on December 21, 2020
          • Reply
  • Can I prep the meat and freeze it uncooked?

    • Hi Jenine, I’ve never done that but I think it should work. 🙂

  • Great recipe! The sautéed veggies really helped to keep this super soft and melt-in-your-mouth yummy! Not to mention the hint of fresh basil from the garden!

    My boyfriend hates meatloaf with a passion (I think it’s because he’s never had a good one). I have made many recipes from Once Upon a Chef and knew this would be a recipe that I could trust to win him over. After a few bites he looked over to me and said “… you can make this again.” Success!!

  • I made this last night with one substitution….I used vegetarian meat crumbles instead of pork but did mix it in with grass fed beef. The texture was not as firm as a beef/pork mixture but the loaf sure was delicious. My husband said it was the tastiest meatloaf he’d ever eaten. Thank you for another winner Jen!

  • I’ve never been a fan of meatloaf–it was what I made when I had three teenage boys with hollow legs and was running out of cooking steam. Once the boys were on their own, meatloaf was at the bottom of my recipe go-to’s. Not anymore! This recipe totally changed my mind! It was on the back of the March 2020 page from a little calendar I received from a realtor — and being stuck at home meant I was looking for new recipes. My husband raved about it and I thought it was delicious. I have now made it half a dozen times. We have dinner, save a couple of slices for sandwiches the next day and then I slice and freeze the remainder to pull out for quick sandwiches on busy or lazy days. Now meatloaf IS my go-to recipe! Thanks, Jenn!

  • Excellent! I made this recipe, following all the steps exactly so, but did leave out the salt. I figured the Parmesan cheese and Worcestershire sauce had plenty. This recipe was delicious and a definite keeper.

    I made it with the Parmesan smashed potatoes and it was a wonderful accompaniment.

  • Hi, Jenn! So excited to make this and because it sounds so delicious (and likely a family crowd-pleaser) would this work as a double batch to cook as two loaves? I would like to eat one fresh and freeze one, but I would like to save time and measure once.

    Thank you!

    • Great idea — yes, you can definitely do that. Hope you enjoy!

  • Seeing a RAO’s jar in the recipe, It has to be GREAT! (The Only sauce I purchase) I’m going to make this recipe tonight! I looked at quite a few meatloaf recipes till I came across this one-It looks Delicious! Growing up, My mother never used a loaf pan Although, I tried it once, it tasted pretty juicy! Thank you so much!

  • This is a wonderful recipe. My partner ate way more than usual and didn’t even add any catsup. I used fresh oregano from the garden instead of basil. The smashed parmesan potatoes were super easy and the perfect side dish. Substituting pork for some of the ground beef made for an interesting, and richer, taste.

  • Hi Jenn,
    I made your Italian Meatloaf last night. It was absolutely delicious. My husband is NOT a fan of meatloaf and wasn’t looking forward to dinner.. Well, he loved it! The texture was firm, the melding of ingredients was so flavorful, and it was like eating an Italian meatball. Thank you!!!!

  • Hoping to make tonight but only have ground turkey and no cheese. Should I adapt the recipe at all? (Especially concerned that it doesn’t turn out too dry.) Have made your delicious BBQ turkey meatloaf many times but the family doesn’t want BBQ tonight.

    • Hi P, Sorry I’m weighing in too late to be helpful! Did you end up making this?

      • I did. Increased bread crumbs to 3/4 cup and increased veggies (as noted in another review) but it did turn out a little dry. Still quite good but would like to try again with ground turkey and cheese. Thoughts?

        • Hi P, This one really is best with ground beef. If you only have ground turkey on hand, I’d recommend this meatloaf instead. It’s delicious!

  • This is the BEST meatloaf I have ever tasted! The cooking process was straight forward. We had this as a family dinner and kids and adults enjoyed it. The portion is very generous so we’ll have delicious leftovers.

  • This is the best meatloaf I’ve ever made. I’ve made it several times and everyone thinks it’s the most delicious meatloaf they have ever tasted. Can’t wait to try your other recipes!

    • So glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  • I made this meatloaf and it is so delicious! It’s different than any other I’ve tried and my Mom plans to make it next. I brought two big pieces to my pregnant boss and she and her husband loved it! There’s plenty to feed a family. I also made cheesecake from the same cookbook and it’s chilling in the fridge but I’m so excited to serve it at an event on Sunday! It smells amazing.

  • Excellent

  • Hey Jen! I’m excited to try this recipe! I was wondering, could I sub the 1/2 lb pork for venison? Would cook time differ at all? Thanks!

    • Hi Rebecca, It will work but I’d probably stick with the pork. Venison is quite lean and won’t add as much flavor. But if you want to give it a try, the cooking time would be the same. Hope that helps!

  • Delicious meatloaf! Want to make two small ones instead of one large to give to new mom to freeze. Can you estimate the cooking time? Thank you for all your great work! Love everything you make.

    • Hi Vivian, glad you like the meatloaf! If you want to divide this into two loaves, I would guesstimate they would take about 45 minutes in the oven. You could also check them with a meat thermometer to make sure the centers have reached 165 degrees F before taking them out of the oven. Hope the recipient enjoys!

  • Prepared the recipe and shared with a needy family…um, good!
    Anxious to try a sandwich. Thanks for the recipe.

    • How nice that you prepared it for a needy family — hope they enjoyed it! 💗

  • Fantastic recipe. My family is not crazy about meatloaf but they loved the flavor on this one. The only problem I encountered was that after greasing the aluminum foil and cooking it for 60 minutes as directed, the bottom was overcooked and stuck to the aluminum foil. I wonder why and if I’m the only one who had this happened. Other than that, excellent recipe. Thank you!

  • I always thought that I made a pretty tasty meatloaf but this is beyond delicious. It’s the only meatloaf that I make now and the family loves it. My husband was never a meatloaf kind of guy until I made this. Thanks, Jenn, for making me look so good…again!

  • This is a really delicious meatloaf, and I love all of the added vegetables. My only issue, and it is a small one, is that on the second day the leftovers were a little dry. One of the best things about meatloaf is the leftovers, either reheated or cold on a sandwich. I have another, less impressive, meatloaf recipe that has a spicy-sweet tomato sauce that I usually serve as a sauce on the side. It’s just a little canned tomato sauce with worcestershire, dijon mustard, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar. It was the perfect, warm accompaniment to our leftover dinner. I served with roasted potato wedges and your brussels sprout, apple and walnut salad.

  • Prepared this recipe exactly as written and was great! Lots of flavor, and made mashed potatoes as a side. It was a tad salty, so I might reduce the salt a bit in the future. I also think this would be great with a fresh salad.

  • Hi Jenn,

    With the heat of the summer, I am reluctant to turn on the oven. I just purchased an Instant Pot, and would like to know how I can adapt this recipe for the Instant Pot.
    Also, I would like to substitute some spicy Italian sausage instead of the ground pork for some additional flavor.



    • Hi Christi, I recently purchased a pressure cooker/instant pot and am just starting to play around with it. I don’t have enough experience with it to tell you confidently how to convert the recipe, so you may want to take a peek at these tips. It looks like they could be useful in converting traditional recipes to ones that would work in a pressure cooker. And it’s fine to use sausage in place of the pork; you may just want to cut back on the salt in the recipe a touch. Hope that helps!

    • Thanks Jenn,
      The link you sent is very informative. I’ve saved it for reference. Good luck with your new pressure cooker/ instant pot. It’s a whole new way I’m getting dinner on the table quickly, without sacrificing flavor. It’s especially helpful on those hot summer days when you don’t want to turn on the oven, or even the stove top!

  • This is the most requested dish in my house! Follow the recipe with the only addition being extra garlic, celery leaves and fresh thyme in the meat mix for extra flavor. Also, I make my own marinara sauce.

    • How much fresh thyme did you use?

  • Did not disappoint. 💜but you never do. Used all organic beef, mashed potatoes and your delicious asparagus/lemon/feta salad.

  • I’ve tried lots of meatloaf recipes over the years, and they all have been either dull or greasy or both. This recipe is absolutely delicious. Although it calls for fresh basil, I find that dried basil tastes just as good.

    • How much dried basil do you use?

      • — Barbara Dowtin
      • Reply
      • I’d suggest a generous tablespoon of dried basil. Hope you enjoy!

  • Absolutely terrific!

  • Delicious meatloaf, turned out perfectly. Easily serves 8 – it was huge! Looking forward to leftovers tomorrow:)

    • — Ainsley Spencer
    • Reply
  • My whole family loved this recipe! Delicious and easy to make even on a weeknight!

    • — Elizabeth Grau
    • Reply
  • Terrific meal enjoyed by all of us. Used all ground beef (don’t love pork). We enjoyed leftovers with melted cheese on top and extra sauce. Another winner added to the dinner rotation!!

  • Amazing meatloaf & so easy! Making this one again soon

  • I made this meatloaf tonight and it is INCREDIBLE!!!! My roommates all claimed to hate meatloaf….until they tried this one! Followed the recipe exactly and it is truly the best I have ever had. Thank you!!!

  • This is the best meatloaf I have ever made! It’s like a delicious juicy meatball with sauce. My 3 and 6 year old request this often. I have made it at least a dozen times exactly as written and wouldn’t change a thing!

  • Easy, healthy and tasty. Thanks for another great recipe. Whenever I make any of your recipes to take to a party, I’m always asked for the recipe. That’s the best compliment I can give you. If making meatballs with this recipe, how long would you leave them in the oven?

    • So glad you like the recipes, Niki! For meatballs, I have an actual meatball recipe that’s pretty similar to the flavors in this meatloaf – I’d suggest that you use this instead. Hope you enjoy!

      • Try cooking meatloaf with a strip two of bacon on top…….you can use pieces scattered over the top….TERRIFIC basting!

  • This recipe will make a very good meatloaf. Unfortunately, I did not have celery and made a couple of other substitutions because I did not have the exact ingredients. It was still good, but I believe that using all of the ingredients listed in the recipe would have resulted in an overall better meatloaf. Next time I will use the correct ingredients, with perhaps the addition of a teaspoon of herbes de provence.

  • Delicious! Made this meatloaf tonight for dinner & loved it. Very easy to put together & flavourful. Followed the recipe except I couldn’t find Italian breadcrumbs so added plain breadcrumbs with a heaping 1/4 tsp of Italian seasoning & the flavours were awesome! Absolutely added the marinara on top & served with some on the side. Ate with your big Italian salad & smashed potatoes. All around delicious meal. Very comforting!!!

    • Add 1/4 – 1/2 cup flax seeds – it Will NOT be dry, its a wonderful addition. I followed this recipe added flax seed because I do in a lot of my baking. It was the best meatloaf I’ve had.

  • Made this last night for dinner. We haven’t had meatloaf in…..forever! Two big thumbs up from everyone all the way around. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Hi Jenn, I made the Italian meatloaf this evening and it was a huge hit. I have a recipe for an Italian meatloaf that I always considered to be the best. Yours beat mine, hands down. Never would have believed it. I did use Italian sausage and ground beef. Everything else was per your specifications.Still 100% with every one of your recipes being a home run. Thanks again for super recipes.

    • Hi Jenn,
      I’m just wondering what you might suggest as best substitute in place of pork/pork sausage in your recipes, as we do not eat it.
      Just thought you might have another tip up your sleeve?? 🙂

      Thank you so much for all your beautiful recipes. They all sound so amazing and have given me new inspiration! ❤️

      • Hi Kathryn, for this recipe, I’d just use all ground beef. It may not be quite as moist as with the pork, but it will still be delicious. Because there’s not really a one-size-fits-all answser in terms of substitutes, let me know if you have questions about any other recipes. Hope you enjoy the meatloaf if you make it! 🙂

  • Love this meatloaf and so does my husband! I make it with ground turkey, and sometimes add a few extra veggies, like roasted red peppers finely chopped. It’s a lot for 2 of us so I slice the extra and freeze it for sandwiches later. Great with chipotle mayo! Another great Jen recipe!!

  • What temperature do I bake it at? Didn’t find it anywhere 🙂 Thank you!!!!!

    • Hi Veronica, it gets baked at 350°F/175°C. Hope you enjoy!

    • Never mind :))) i found it! Sorry about this 🙂

  • Any idea how much mirepaux total ? As a time saver I chop extra and freeze/refrigerate. Making tonite!

    • Hi, these are all just estimates based on the exact sizes of the vegetables and how finely you dice them, but 1 small finely chopped onion should be about 1/2 cup, the finely chopped carrot will be approximately 1/3 cup and the same for the celery. Mincing the 3 garlic cloves should render about 1.5 tsp. Hope that helps!

  • OMG!! This is amazing!
    Made as directed but since I didn’t have the Marinara sauce, I made your recipe Tomato Balsamic Glaze to cover the meatloaf instead. So delicious.
    Thanks for making me look like I can cook! Love your site!

  • I’ve made this Italian Meatloaf twice. The first time I did it exactly as the recipe with beef and pork. The meatloaf was delicious and a hit. The second time I did it with Turkey and it was just as good. A perfect meal served with couscous. Thank you Once Upon a Chef.

    • — Cynthia Gutierrez
    • Reply
  • This recipe was absolutely delicious … only change was that we did 50/50 pork/beef. Served with homemade chips.

  • Can I say how much I love this meatloaf? It is super easy, super tasty, and it even freezes well! I love all the veggies in it and have found if in a hurry I can add them to the meat without sauteeing first, and it has made no difference in the final meatloaf. To freeze for individual meals, I make 1″ slices, wrap in foil and then stash in a freezer pouch for later. Since I’m a household of one now, that’s important to me!

    • — Sally Prangley
    • Reply
  • Every one of your recipes I have tried is delicious! My husband and kids always ask what we’re having for dinner, and I simply say “something from once upon a chef,” and everyone is always happy to hear that reply! It has always been like pulling teeth to try to get my eight year old to eat meatloaf, but not with this recipe. She raved over it! I couldn’t believe it! Thanks again for another wonderful recipe!!!

    • Looks delicious! I have everything on hand except for the pork sausage. I do have sweet Italian sausage. Would that work or not work? Thanks!

      • Sure, Angela, just cut back on the added salt a bit as the sausage will already have some incorporated. Hope you enjoy!

  • I adore the flavor of this recipe!!! However, I have a need to make it gluten free. I tried twice with store-bought gluten free Panko breadcrumbs, and the texture is just….crumbly, mushy, won’t hold together. Any suggestions? More egg? A different binder? Oats, cornmeal….? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Vanessa, a couple suggestions come to mind — you could try a different brand of gluten-free bread crumbs as that may solve the problem. You could also try using ground oats instead of the bread crumbs. Because they will change the flavor of the meatloaf a bit, I’d suggest using just enough to bind everything together. Hope that helps!

  • As usual with your recipes, this was amazing. The only change I made was using the grease of the morning’s bacon with ground beef. The highlight for me was the basil. I will never again make meatloaf without it.

  • Just made this meatloaf recipe and we loved it! It was delicious. I added a small amount of red pepper flakes and used dried oregano and dried basil since I don’t have fresh basil, but it was delicious nevertheless.

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