Is It A Giant Meatball Or Meatloaf – Recipe

Meatloaf while RVing
Now the best part of this Italian Meatloaf recipe is the LEFTOVERS!

Like many of you, you probably grew up eating meatloaf as a kid or have had it at some point in your life.  For me, I grew up eating it the same way time after time. Then one meal with a family friend it was prepared differently.  Their meatloaf had some olives and other ‘weirdness’ to it. It was nice to see that you can prepare this meal with other ingredients, but I really did not like the olives in it!  I liked the meatloaf I grew up with, but as an adult was never able to re-create it as well as I remembered from childhood. And when I did come close, the leftovers were never eaten.   So my hunt began for a different meatloaf recipe that would be tasty as well as leaving us wanting to use up the leftovers.

Found Something Italian

I came across an Italian Style Meatloaf that seemed interesting, I love Italian anything, so I gave it a try.  This was a hit and over the years I have removed some items from the original recipe and added my own. Now what I have is what I like to think of as a Giant Italian Meatball, but flattened.  Okay, that may not sound too appealing. However, the leftovers are incredible on their own or what we do is turn them into a pasta (meatloaf) sauce for a second meal.

Adapting It RV Life

Living in a RV full-time has its challenges and one of them is the propane oven that is hard to gauge the actual internal temperature (we will buy a device soon to help us).  So I will provide the ideal temp for a classic oven as well as how I need to set my 5th wheels’ oven.

Italian Meatloaf with mash potatoes

Italian Meatloaf Recipe

By Adventures In RV Life, Melissa McElfresh

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SERVINGS: 4 servings at 3.5 oz (98 grams) each


  • 1 pound of ground chuck or ground beef (20% fat is ideal)
  • ¼ tsp garlic, granulated (powder)
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ⅓ – ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce, divided
  • ½ cup bread crumbs (see Tips if using Panco)



  • Heat oven to 375*F  (Our RV propane oven we set at 400*F)
  • Prepare a baking dish, if desired with foil and/or cooking spray
  • Place ground beef in mixing bowl
  • Add garlic, basil, oregano, onion, egg, and 2 Tablespoons of tomato sauce
  • Mix to combine
  • Add bread crumbs and mix until combined
  • Roll mixture into a ball
  • If it does not hold shape, feel the mixture to see if it feels ‘wet’. Add more sauce if it feels dry. If it feels ‘too wet’ add a little more (1 TB) bread crumbs.
  • Place giant ‘meatball’ mixture in the center of the prepared baking dish
  • See ‘Tips’ if you don’t want to get your hands messy in the next step
  • Press down on the meat mixture and begin to form a rectangle that is 3” thick. Once formed, indent a little ‘well’ with your fingertips, about ½ inch deep on top.
  • Spread 2 Tablespoons of tomato sauce on the top (see Tips below)
  • Insert meat thermometer, if using
  • Place in heated oven uncovered and cook until internal temp is 160*F


  • If using Panco, either use less than ½ cup or add more tomato sauce.
  • Lay wax paper over the top of the ‘meatball’ so your hands don’t get ‘yucky’ or dip your hand in some water before you flatten the ‘meatball.’
  • Place meatloaf on a wire rack so it does not sit in the fat when cooking.
  • For a crunchy meatloaf top, skip the sauce topping and do not cover.
  • Place under the broiler for a few minutes at the end of cooking for added crunch.
  • Line cooking vessel with foil for easier cleanup.
  • You can prepare the meatloaf the morning (or night) before you plan to cook it.
  • Letting the meatloaf ‘sit’ a couple of hours before cooking will intensify the flavor.
  • Buy a loaf size tin at the dollar store, cover it with plastic wrap and place the meatloaf in the freezer for a future date.

Now the best part of this Italian Meatloaf recipe is the LEFTOVERS!  In an upcoming blog, I will show you how to turn the leftovers into an amazing pasta sauce for a quick, yet tasty spaghetti dinner.

Thanks for reading and we will see you on our next Adventure!

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Melissa McElfresh

Melissa McElfresh

In 2012 I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis (stomach paralysis), which made me realize life is too short and not to take simple things for granted. As an avid indoor-girl with allergies, I did not go on hikes of any sort. But, one day my Marine husband, Don, asked if I would go on a 'nature walk' with him. It was on the paved Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park. I went and was hooked, eager for our next adventure! The desire to see new places, meet new people, experience new cultures, has aided me to share with you my new adventure.

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