What's the meatloaf you remember from childhood? For me, it was basically a giant baked meatball, ground beef mixed with little more than some egg and breadcrumbs, overly meaty and greasy from being baked in a loaf pan.
When I started to cook for myself, I explored a lot of recipes and food items that varied vastly from what I was raised on (I remember a phase of peanut butter rebellion early in college where I tried almost all the brands the grocery store had before finally realizing I did in fact like the kind my mom always bought best). The first meatloaf I made was with Alton Brown's Good Eats recipe--I almost couldn't believe there were supposed to be so many ingredients in meatloaf, but trusted Alton to guide me, and as always, I wasn't disappointed.
His recipe is amazing as is, really. I feel a little silly posting the link to his and then sharing mine, but I have made adaptions for a higher vegetable to meat ratio (thus the "loaded"), a smaller recipe (serving 4-6 instead of 6-8) and slightly smaller portion of meat, and to adjust for what I tend to have on hand in my pantry. I'd call my version simplified, but I do add the step of sauteing the vegetables, which I think adds a bit more depth of flavor, especially necessary if you are using ground turkey instead of beef.
1 1/2 lbs ground beef (or ground turkey)
1/2 yellow onion
1 carrot, peeled
1 large rib of celery
1/2 red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray's)
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Chop (but don't puree) onion, carrots, celery, garlic and red bell pepper in a food processor. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan, and saute vegetables until golden and softened. Season with the black pepper, cumin, and cayenne. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, gently combine ground beef or turkey with the vegetables, bread crumbs, and salt using your hands or a spatula. Beat the egg in a small bowl, then gently mix into the meat mixture, combining thoroughly (you want everything mixed together well, but still kind of "fluffy," not dense).
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Put the meatloaf mixture in the middle of the pan and form into a loaf (I like mine sort of short and wide, for a larger exterior surface.
Bake 20 minutes, then spread barbecue sauce over the top. Bake another 25-40 minutes (total time 45 minutes to an hour), or until internal temperature reaches 160°F.