Rockin’ Italian-Style Meatloaf

My friend Amy mocked me the other day because I told her that the saddest time of year is between the time The Next Food Network Star ends and the fall programming begins. Obviously I’m joking; that is not the saddest time of year–the saddest time of year is swimsuit shopping season.

The Food Network Star and I have an interesting relationship for a lot of reasons. First, I watch that show with rabid intensity–I have this whole Sunday night thing where, after the kids are in bed, I fold laundry and watch the show all by myself (I actually do the same thing with The Amazing Race during the rest of the year, but The Amazing Race is not exactly pertinent to this post). Second, I have absolutely no desire to be contestants on that show. Third, and perhaps the most strange, although I look forward to the show all week, I’ve never actually watched any of the winners’ shows (with the exception of the occasional episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, but I also didn’t watch the first season of The Next Food Network Star when Guy Fieri won).

This most recent season seemed particularly heavy on the drama and cat-fighting, which made it both more enticing and guilty pleasure-ish. And at the heart of so much of the drama were Penny and Mary Beth.

Mary Beth and Penny talking it out with a clearly uncomfortable man-child between them.

There were a few recipes from this past season that I was dying to try and this one was at the top of my list, so much so that I used my mad Internet stalking skills to track down this recipe because it wasn’t on The Food Network’s site.

Sara recently posted an awesome Glazed Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf and while there are some similarities, this one definitely has kind of an Italian vibe going for it while the other one has, well, bacon. My son who only likes ground beef in our Italian Meatballs lo-o-oves this recipe. Like…I’ve made it twice in the last month (and two of those weeks have been without a kitchen) because he loves it that much. And because I needed to take pictures of it, but that’s beside the point.

You’ll start out by making a glaze–Mary Beth’s recipe calls for brown sugar, ketchup, and your favorite barbecue sauce, but I felt like it needed a little more tang to offset the spicy sweetness, so I added in a tablespoon of Creole mustard (although I think probably any mustard would work).

Whisk together the ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over low, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, pull together the ingredients you’ll need for the meatloaf: ground beef (in the neighborhood of 85% lean–if it’s too fatty, it’ll be greasy, but if it’s too lean, it will be dry), ground pork, panko bread crumbs, fresh parsley, minced garlic, chopped onions, tomato paste, fresh basil, shredded Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and buttermilk. Yep. Buttermilk. Don’t question it, just run with it–I promise, you won’t regret it.

Preheat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add a tablespoon or two of extra-virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onions and garlic and saute until translucent and fragrant.

When the onions are ready, add the tomato paste, chopped basil, chopped parsley, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute or until the ingredients are well-combined. Remove from heat.

Remember that buttermilk? And the panko bread crumbs?

Combine them in a bowl together, kind of like a really weird bowl of cereal. Let them stand for a few minutes (like an even weirder bowl of cereal) or until the buttermilk is soaked into the bread crumbs.

While the buttermilk is soaking into the bread crumbs, gently mix together the ground beef and ground pork.

Add the Parmesan cheese, onion mixture, and the buttermilk-soaked breadcrumbs to the beef/pork mixture and gently combine with your hands. Shape a free-form loaf onto an aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.

Reserve about 1/2 cup of the glaze and then brush the meatloaf with some of the glaze.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the center reads 165 F. While the meatloaf is cooking, baste it every 10 minutes with the sauce from the pan (not the reserved sauce–that’s for dipping and meatloaf sandwiches).

When the meatloaf is done, remove it from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes before cutting. Serve with a green salad and your favorite potatoes (like these, these, or these). Serve them the next day on thick slices of white bread or big, strong hoagie rolls and some of that extra sauce. You’ll thank me, I promise.

woman in denim shirt holding a salad bowl
Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. YES! So glad you tracked it down, can’t wait to try it…it reminds me of a meatball recipe from Tyler Florence that uses thick sliced bread and buttermilk. Best meatballs EVER! I just wanted to punch Penny and smack Mary Beth and if I saw Alisha cry one more time…palleezzeee! I knew Sandwich King would win because they don’t really have a show like that…they already have a Mexican show and Vic just bombed @ the end. Kate…where did you put the Coke bottle opener??

    1. Ha!! The Coke bottle opener has to go in last–I’ll know I’m done with my kitchen when we put it in! I’m taking my time figuring out where it’s going to go, but I promise, I’ll let you know! 🙂

  2. You seriously just made my day!!!! I was crushed when they didn’t post this recipe. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! By chance did you track down her strawberry cupcakes too?

  3. Not about the meatloaf. I love your blog and check it often. I have a problem and maybe you have some ideas or suggestions. My Grandson is very allergic to eggs. What can I do when a recipe calls for eggs or egg whites? So much of what we eat contains eggs. I hope you have some ideas.

    1. Can your grandson have duck eggs? Maybe that sounds gross, but I’ve heard that some people who are allergic to chicken eggs CAN have duck eggs. An egg allergy would be no fun!

  4. I’m on a ground beef kick these days. I want to make a huge sandwich out of this meatloaf!

  5. Thank you for tracking this recipe down! I was intrigued about the buttermilk meatloaf that had those food experts drooling. And when I make it, and eat it, I’ll just try to forget it came from Mary Beth because she was SO ANNOYING on that show!! SO glad she didn’t win. Every time she came on screen it was like virtual fingernails down a chalkboard. Eek.

  6. I’ve come across another great buttermilk substitute…one part milk to one part plain yogurt. You can use it immediately and it has a more true-to-buttermilk flavor than the ones that result from adding lemon juice or vinegar to milk, which I’ve also tried. I make my own yogurt and almost always have plain yogurt on hand, which is helpful, but I know that’s not typical. I’m intrigued by making buttermilk itself, gonna have to give that a try too!

  7. My husband is dairy-free and gluten-free. Do you think this recipe would work with gluten free bread crumbs and soy milk? Or does that defeat the purpose? My 17 month old daughter LOVES meatloaf so I’m trying to find a recipe that I can make for my husband to enjoy as well, or it’s just way too much meatloaf!

  8. Buttermilk, from the “Joy of Cooking”: Combine: 1 quart skim milk (at room temperature), 1/2 cup buttermilk (at room temperature), 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir well and cover. Let stand at room temperature until clabbered. Stir until smooth. Refrigerate before serving. Store as for fresh milk.”

    Very simple, very easy. Personally, I don’t see any reason to bring the ingredients to room temp before mixing – it’ll just take a little longer to clabber. I also don’t think the proportion of buttermilk to skim milk is critical, and I’ve never added salt to mine.

    1. I’ve been cooking for YEARS!! Southern, to boot and I don’t think I’ve heard the term ‘clabbered’…just googled it sure enough…there it is! Funny~

  9. I noticed you use tin foil a lot! Do you not like using parchment paper? I use it a lot and love it! Just wondering?

    1. I love parchment, too, but I tend to use it for thing like baking cookies and cakes and use foil for things I wants to be crispy (like our oven-baked fries) or where we need to contain a potentially disastrous mess (like here with the sugary glaze).

  10. Seriously! Thank you for using your stalker skills and finding this recipe! I have been wanting it since I saw Mary Beth make it. My family will LOVE this, so much!
    I love the Next Food Network Star show! I have been watching it since it began.
    I, too, am a huge fan of Amazing Race…can’t wait for the next season!

  11. YEAH! I’ve basically never made anything from your site that my husband doesn’t LOVE. And I LOVE meatloaf (and he sometimes likes it) This is a big win!! (and I may look into that “home made” buttermilk too!!

  12. Oh, I loved the Season 1 winners – Dan & Steve. I miss their show. I miss all the older FN shows. :/

  13. This meatloaf is amazing. I looked the recipe up last month and found it on her website. The panko/buttermilk really gives it a lighter texture. We LOVE meatloaf and this one is definitely a winner!

  14. My dad makes something fairly similar to this but its stuffed with mozzarella cheese….when you cut through it you get ooey gooey yumminess in every bite….faaaannnntastic! LOVE this site!

  15. Thanks for posting this recipe! I’ve been meaning to look up whether or not it was available somewhere. The judges just raved about it! I can’t wait to try it in the fall when I can leave my oven on for longer than 5 minutes without overheating!

  16. LOVE FN Star! Who were you rooting for? Sandwich king all the way for me and my husband. Loved his personality and I sure love sandwiches!

    1. Sandwich King for me, too! Did you see the “behind the scenes” episode? Usually those are so lame, but I thought this one was fascinating. I loved seeing a subtler side of his sense of humor, especially when Penny was concerned. And his impression of Alisha. I did think Orchid went home WAY too soon, and I liked Vic and Susie, but I would never have made Susie’s food; it definitely wasn’t practical for a home cook (pork deep fried in lard? Cactus salad? Where do I even buy cactus?) Plus her personal stories were grating on me.

  17. I love the Amazing Race as well! Do you ever watch Chopped? Thanks for this recipe. I have some ground beef in the freezer and now I know what to make with it. Thanks again!

  18. Have you ever tried ground turkey? I’m wondering if it would work or be too crumbly?

  19. So since I’ve started making your recipes every day and making my husband oh so happy, I’ve constantly been needing buttermilk. While it isn’t way expensive, it is compared to regular milk. So my dad experimented and found out how to make my own buttermilk. Pour a little buttermilk in a jar, top off with milk and let set out for 24 hours. Use it up, add more milk and leave out again. Just don’t wash your jar out and loose your buttermilk starter. Its so awesome and easy. I always have a quart and use it almost every day! Thanks for the fabulous recipes!

    1. Stacey, can you clarify this a little bit? How much buttermilk to start with, how much milk do you top it off with, and after you leave it out for 24 hours do you then refrigerate it? Do you ever refrigerate it or is it always on the counter? When you use it up, can you use all of it or do you need to leave more than just what is coating the jar to start up the next batch?
      Kate, my daughter adores meatloaf. I’ll make sure she tries this! I’ll be trying it too, as soon as it isn’t too hot to turn on the oven 🙂

        1. You can also add 1 Tbl vinegar to 1 C. of milk and let it stand for 5 minutes. It makes a nice buttermilk substitute.

      1. You can also make buttermilk by adding 1 Tblsp of lemon juice to each cup of milk. If you need less than that, remember there are 3 teaspoons to 1 Tablespoon, and then bust out your math skills you never thought you would use.

  20. This sounds amazing!!!! Also, not that it REALLY matters, but Guy didn’t win season 1. A gay couple (Dan Smith & Steve McDonagh) won (source: This to me was not fair because it was a team and not an individual like all the others. How is it fair that one “contestant” gets a perpetual sous chef? Any way, I digress… My wife and I are big followers of this site (we bought 2 books when they launched, one for us and one as a future gift). I have a strong feeling that this will be be made in our home soon 😉

  21. I have never been a huge meatloaf fan, but my husband and son love it (as in LOVE it), so I’m always looking for a recipe I might like as well. I think this might be it! Looks fabulous; we’ll definitely be trying it soon!

  22. How did I never know you watched next FN Star? So many little things we could have wasted time discussing after each episode! I have totally wanted to try Mary Beth’s meatloaf ever since that episode- I’m so glad you posted this, it looks delish (which, let’s face it, is kind of amazing for meatloaf!)