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If your childhood meatloaf memories are strewn with bricks and sawdust, we have two things to say: first, we’re sorry; and second, seriously we’re really sorry. Because good meatloaf is easy, and it can be tender and delicious. So, sorry (again), but your suffering was completely unnecessary.

For better or worse, meatloaf is the kind of dish that “brings you back to childhood,” says Tony Cammalleri, executive chef at Pusateri’s, a gourmet grocer in Toronto. Lucky for Cammalleri, his family hails from Southern Italy, and he was raised on his mother’s moist veal casseroles laced with cheese and Swiss chard.

But not everyone has an Italian mama who knows, as Cammalleri reminds us, that you’ll never make a good meatloaf with meat alone. But if you follow his tips and the recipe below, you can leave those meat-bricks in the past and cook meatloaf like you’ve got an Italian mama and chef’s training.

To begin, here are Chef Tony Cammaleri’s top meatloaf tips:

  • Always add to the meat: Bread and liquid transform grainy minced meat into tender morsels of meaty perfection. Always include them.
  • Always use a probe thermometer to measure doneness: Pans and ovens differ, but the thermometer never lies. Plus, unlike a knife, a probe thermometer won’t let precious juices escape.

The recipe below has been tried and tested on Toronto’s most discerning palates, but adventurous cooks may still be tempted to tinker. Chef Cammalleri is all for it, as long as you replace items in what he calls “the formula,” with something similar. Think cornbread instead of bread, goat cheese instead of cheddar, and turkey and pork instead of chicken and veal. Lucky for spice haters, the jalapeno is the only ingredient below that’s not part of the formula, and can be omitted entirely for a milder meatloaf.

What you need

Cheddar Jalapeno Meatloaf by Chef Tony Cammalleri

  • 75 grams onion, pureed
  • ½ teaspoon garlic, pureed
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 100 grams breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound medium ground beef
  • 1 pound medium ground chicken
  • 1 pound medium ground veal
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 100 ml barbecue sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped (optional)
  • 200 grams cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

How it’s made

  1. Prep all ingredients in advance. (Mise en place.)
  2. Preheat oven to 325F.
  3. Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, and add to a non-stick loaf pan.
  5. Bake uncovered until cooked through and a probe thermometer shows an internal temperature of 165F for a minimum of 15 seconds.
  6. Once cooked through, let rest 5 minutes then remove from pan.
  7. Slice and glaze with your favourite barbeque sauce or gravy. (Chef Cammalleri and the team at Pusateri’s are fond of Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce.)