I haven't made one of my "surprise" recipes in quite awhile! For those of you just tuning in, let me explain what a "surprise" dish encompasses. You see, I lead a rich fantasy life. Sometimes, I like to play mad scientist in my kitchen. I like to forage in my pantry and freezer and find items that need to be used and/or look interesting. Usually, I am inspired and I can concoct a dinner idea around whatever I find. There is no actual recipe, and I am not sure how it is going to turn out. I have a rough idea of what I want, but I never know how I am going to get there. The fun of a "surprise" recipe is not fully knowing where it is going, even as you start cooking. It is all just beakers, and Bunsen Burners, and smoking vials of formula in my kitchen, until POOF...dinner. Can you hear that???? I am even working on my evil, ghoulish, mad scientist-type laugh....MOOO-WHOOOO HA! HA! HA!
Tonight is such a night where I feel like experimenting on my family. I originally had a salmon recipe slotted for our evening meal, but for some reason, I just don't feel like making it. I switched around my menu plan and went to check out what I have on hand. I settled on a meatloaf of sorts; I thought that Italian meatloaf sounded good. I have a couple standard meatloaf versions that I make regularly, but I wanted something a little different. I actually want this dish to taste more like my stuffed peppers than my regular meatloaf. I am also going to make some roasted potatoes, and roasted asparagus to go with my masterpiece. I will give you a rough blueprint of what I am doing, but I will probably re-write the recipe after dinner (i.e. write down what I actually end up doing). I will make sure to post a review and photo to let you know how it all goes down, too. Wish me luck! MOOO-WHOOOO HA! HA! HA!
Jen's Italian Meatloaf Surprise
1/2 onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, diced
5 sun dried tomatoes, drained and minced
1 small can of plain tomato sauce (no salt added)
1-2 Tablespoons of tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. of dried or fresh basil
1 small can of water (just use tomato sauce can)
2 Tablespoons of canola oil
seasoned bread crumbs, Italian-style
1/2 cup of instant white rice
salt and pepper to taste
dried Italian Seasoning to taste (if needed)
dried oregano to taste (if needed)
1 lb. of ground beef
1/3 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1 15 oz. can of drained diced tomatoes (no salt added) for topping
Saute onions and green peppers in a skillet with canola oil over medium heat. Add garlic and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes,sun dried tomatoes, and tomato paste. Add small can of tomato sauce and water. Simmer until water evaporates. Turn off heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Mix all other ingredients (excluding marinara sauce that you just made and can of diced tomatoes)into a large bowl. Using a large spoon, combine 1-2 heaping spoonfuls of marinara sauce into the meat mixture. If meat mixture is too 'wet',add additional bread crumbs or rice as needed. Season mixture with additional spices, salt and pepper if needed.
Form into a loaf shape on a sheet pan. Pour and cover loaf with marinara sauce. Then add whole can of drained diced tomatoes on top of marinara sauce. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour. Uncover and cook for an additional 1/2 hour.
All quantities are approximate. The roasted potatoes and asparagus will be roasted on a sheet pan in the oven along with the meatloaf. I think I will cook the potatoes and asparagus with some salt, pepper, and olive oil; then roast for the last 1/2 hour of cooking at the same temp as the meatloaf. If they need additional crisping, I will turn probably take the meatloaf out to rest and crank up the oven temp (or broil) for 10-15 minutes to finish the job. After they come out, I will sprinkle it all with some Pecorino Romano cheese and call it good!
I am really pleased with how this turned out! This was freakin' awesome. The husband said that this was his new, favorite meatloaf. It was exactly what I wanted...I love it when that happens. I need to start cooking more "off the cuff", because I certainly enjoy it more than following a set recipe. It is just more relaxing. I love being creative and responding to the food as it cooks. I think you can taste the difference, sometimes. That is what home cookin' is all about! I loved this whole meal, so we will certainly put it into rotation. I love it when a surprise dish becomes a family favorite! This is a keeper, for sure.