A few years back, Fine Cooking published an article showcasing a variety of meatloaf recipes. It also instructed how to build your own loaf based on items from specific categories. From those, I made this rustic version, which is a blend of the two. It was surprisingly light and not dense as some meatloaves can be.
We also wanted a gravy, so, in lieu of a loaf pan, we cooked the meatloaf in a large, heated cast-iron skillet to facilitate browning on the bottom as well as the top and sides. When finished cooking, this provided some tasty drippings for the base of the gravy.
Of course, since this serves up to eight meals, we sliced one half for two separate dinners, freezing the other half for another time.
Rustic Sausage and Fennel Meatloaf with Gravy
- 4 Tbsp. canola or olive oil, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped small
- 1/2 small fennel bulb, core removed and chopped small (save some fronds for garnish, if desired)
- 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 4 oz. medium-coarse white bread, such as Italian or French, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 2-1/2 cups)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2/3 lb. bulk sweet sausage
- 2/3 lb. ground beef
- 2/3 lb. ground veal
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- Kosher Salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Pan drippings from meatloaf
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- 3 cups beef broth, heated
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3/4 tsp. thyme, minced
- 6 Tbsp. flour
- 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the onion, fennel and garlic, stirring frequently, until softened and just beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.
- Add the white wine, and simmer briskly, until almost dry, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool until warm.
- In a shallow dish that holds it in a single layer, soak the bread in the milk, flipping once, until soggy but not falling apart, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the coarseness and freshness of the bread. Lightly squeeze a handful of bread at a time to remove some of the milk (it should be wet but not drenched). Finely chop and add to the bowl with the onion mixture.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
- Add the beef, veal, and sausage and eggs to the onion mixture. Scatter the Parmigiano, and parsley over the meat, and then sprinkle with the Worcestershire, 2-1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Use your hands to gently mix all the ingredients until just combined; try not to compact the mixture as you do this.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large cast-iron skillet. Form a rectangular block from the meatloaf mixture that will fit into your skillet. Carefully transfer the meatloaf into the hot skillet and put the skillet into the preheated oven. Bake until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F in the center of the meatloaf, 40 to 55 minutes. (Ours was done at 45 minutes.) Remove the meatloaf to a platter and cover with foil while you make the gravy.
- Add enough butter to the pan drippings to equal 6 tablespoons. (We had 2 tablespoons in the pan so we added 4 tablespoons of butter.) Sauté the minced shallot in the fat and drippings until it softens.
- Add garlic and thyme and sauté another 30 seconds.
- Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in hot broth and Worcestershire sauce. Scrape up any browned bits and smooth out lumps.
- Simmer gravy 10-15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Arrange 1-inch slabs of meatloaf on the platter, top with gravy. Serve extra gravy at the dinner table.
Loosely adapted from a recipe by Allison Ehri Kreitler for Fine Cooking