I know when I was growing up I LOVED meatloaf. My mother was not an excellent cook but she made good, hearty homestyle food- nothing fancy, and meatloaf happened to be one of her better dishes. She always made a monstrous behemoth of a meatloaf too. We always had plenty leftover for hot meatloaf sandwiches the next night and maybe a cold meatloaf sandwich with ketchup for lunch or a snack.
Some people just cannot stand the idea of meatloaf. I am NOT one of them, and since I like to play with my food, I am always playing around with different tastes and textures. Taco meatloaf. Classic meatloaf. Turkey meatloaf with stuffing instead of breadcrumbs. Stuffed meatloaf. You can imagine. So as I was thinking today about some of the better alternatives to ground beef, which is really jumping up in price, ground chicken is becoming a more affordable option. But what should I do to it to make it special? It just won't be the same in a regular meatloaf like Mom's- chicken and ketchup? Yuck!
Chicken........chicken dishes........chicken with all these tomatoes I have canned in the cabinets........wait !!!! OMGosh- Chicken Parmigiana !!!! Surely there is a meatloaf waiting to happen there, right? I have a well-stocked Italian influenced kitchen (oh who am I kidding- I have ingredients, herbs and spices from ALL cuisines.....) so I went to work and this is the delicious result.
Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf
2 lb ground chicken
1/2 cup breadcrumbs *
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tsp each minced fresh basil, thyme, oregano
3-4 cloves garlic finely minced
1 small onion, very finely minced
1/4 cup celery, very finely minced
small palmful minced sun dried tomatoes **
salt and pepper
1 cup marinara sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Combine all ingredients except marinara sauce and mozzarella in a big mixing bowl. Use your hands to get in there and really mix it thoroughly. Transfer mixture to a large baking pan like a 9x13 pan or roasting pan. Shape into a loaf. You can also choose to make two smaller loaves if desired. Bake in 350 degree oven until completely cooked (tests at 180 degrees). Remove from oven and spread marinara sauce over. Sprinkle liberally with mozzarella and return to oven to melt cheese and let it brown slightly. Allow to rest about 5-10 minutes before cutting. Delicious served with a side of pasta and sauce, mashed potatoes or even just a salad. Some sauteed zucchini would be delicious as well.
* Note- Breadcrumbs- I always use the leftover bread butts, the last hamburger bun, the last dinner roll, etc- throw them in the freezer and when my breadcrumb container is empty I take some out, buzz them in the food processor, dry in the oven and have "free" breadcrumbs. It's perfectly ok to use store bought, or if you don't have any, make fresh ones- tear bread into chunks and give a few pulses in the food processor, or tear into very small pieces by hand.
** Note- You can use sun dried tomatoes with or without oil, dehydrated tomatoes, or if you prefer, red bell pepper. They are mostly for interesting color and texture in what tends to be a pretty "pale" meatloaf and accentuates the green of the minced herbs.
You can also substitute ground turkey if you like. I prefer chicken for this dish though.