Cooking On A Budget: Mini Italian Meatloaves

Cooking on a budget doesn't mean you have to sacrifice some of your favorite comfort meals. Meatloaf, for example, is something many people grow up with and incredibly affordable. There are a million ways to make it as well which is really nice in terms of versatility. Another argument in the defense of meatloaf is it's simplicity. You literally mix the ingredients together and let the oven take over. Simple, no-nonsense and a really low clean-up level. I love meatloaf in many ways but nothing beats Italian-style.

Now, a traditional meatloaf takes about an hour to cook at the least. It's a giant chunk of meat and it's best to cook it low and slow so the middle gets cooked through before the top begins burning. Speed up the cooking process by forming mini loaves. One is enough for me but if you have growing boys or men in the house, two will feed them comfortably. With that being said, this recipe serves about 4-6 depending on hunger levels. Fresh herbs are great to use in anything but if you don't have them on hand, dried work just fine. Dried herbs are what my family primarily used when I grew up and they have just as much flavor as fresh herbs. A little trick? When sprinkling dried herbs into anything, rub them in between your fingers as you do so. This will bring them back to life and make them incredibly fragrant. 

You can use a mini loaf pan if you have one for this but I find it easiest to just create little mounts of meat and add them to a baking sheet lined with tin foil or parchment paper. The cheese both cooked within the meat mixture and melted on top gives it a comforting touch. Besides, who doesn't love cheese? Tomatoes give the meatloaves a nice juicy touch instead of adding milk or cream. You can easily add extra veggies in here as well to up the nutrition factor. Shredded carrots are the easiest. They'll blend in with the tomatoes and since they're shredded, no chunks. Get the recipe below.

1 pound Ground Beef
8 ounces Diced Tomatoes with garlic, drained
2 tbsp. Basil, chopped OR 1 tbsp. dried
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 Egg
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
1 tbsp. Oregano, chopped OR 1.5 tsp. dried
1 tbsp. Parsley, chopped OR 1.5 tsp. dried
1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1/4 cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Mix together beef, tomatoes, basil, breadcrumbs, egg, Parmesan cheese, oregano, parsley, bell pepper and garlic.

3. Form meat mixture into six loaves and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and top with Mozzarella cheese. Bake for 5 more minutes. 

4. Remove the loaves from the oven. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve alongside some veggies.