In the Kitchen: Nana’s Meatloaf

Dear Constant Reader,

I figure we could all use a little comfort food right now. This meatloaf is one of my only true old family recipes, coming from my mother’s mother, known to her myriad beloved grandchildren as Nana.

My glamourous Nana modeling her beautifully coifed red hair.

This meatloaf has been loved by at least three generations. It’s easy and can be thrown together quickly from staples. Necessary for someone feeding a big family — besides herself and my grandfather, there were five children, her mother (the original Wilhelmina, from whom I take my name), and her brother. It’s remarkably unfussy in terms of ingredients and lends itself to variations. I’ve changed up the ingredients from time to time, but Nana’s original recipe is the one I come back when I need a little comfort.

You will need…

  • Ground meat. The original recipe calls for “chopmeat”, but you can use any kind of ground meat. I’ve made this with ground beef and ground turkey and meatloaf mix. I’ve never tried it with sausage meat, but that might work.
  • Minced onion. There’s no quantity in the recipe, but I usually use about half an onion. If you’re low on produce, use dried onion flakes.
  • Shortening. Use classic Crisco for authenticity. I usually use olive oil, but you could use butter or even bacon fat for extra deliciousness.
  • Catsup. I try to avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners in condiments, so I use a ketchup sweetened with honey (it’s really hard to find sugar-free ketchup). Although it smells obviously of honey, when heated, I didn’t notice any difference in taste in the finished product. If you like something zippier, use chili sauce. You could also use barbecue sauce.
  • Breadcrumbs. I’ve made this with standard supermarket breadcrumbs, homemade breadcrumbs, and panko. If you don’t have breadcrumbs, toast a couple slices of bread and crush them in a ziptop bag with a rolling pin (or a wine bottle). Sometimes, when I use turkey, I’ve used stuffing mix instead of breadcrumbs. I’ve also used crushed corn chips — pairs nicely with the chili sauce above.
  • An egg. No explanation required.
  • Milk. It works just as well with non-dairy milk as with the real thing. 3 ounces is slightly more than a third of a cup.
  • To get started, heat the shortening or other fat in a small frying pan. Sauté the onions until softened. Add ketchup and remove from the heat. If you’re using dried onion, skip this step.

    Put the meat in a large bowl and add the breadcrumbs. Add the ketchup mixture (or dried onions and ketchup), egg, and milk. Now’s the time to also add salt and pepper or any other seasonings you like. Now plunge your (very clean!) hands in and mix! There’s something very satisfying about squishing the mixture all together. The only time I remember my mother taking off her wedding ring was to make meatloaf.

    When well combined, mold into a loaf and put into a small baking dish. My mother always made this in one of those Corningware baking dishes with the blue flowers on the side. I wish I had a set of those…

    Bake for 1 hour at 350F until cooked through in the middle. Serve with mashed potatoes and a green veggie. When I was a kid, that was often peas, which we would mix into our mashed potatoes for Polka Dot Potatoes. It seemed like a special treat. These days, I prefer green beans with a hot vinegar-bacon dressing. To each their own.

    There’s also a recipe for gravy, but I’ll be honest, I’ve never made it, because my mother never did. Perhaps one of these days I will, just to try it.

    Here’s the original recipe, exactly as passed down to me!

    Nana’s Meatloaf
    1 hr – 350

    1 lb chopmeat
    3/4 C breadcrumbs
    minced onion
    2 T shortening
    2 T catsup
    1 egg
    3 oz. milk

    Sauté onion in shortening. Add catsup.

    Add breadcrumbs to meat. Add catsup mixture, egg & milk.

    Gravy — melt 3 T butter with 2 T flour. Add 1 t. gravy master, 1 C water & 1 T catsup


    M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 24 March 2020 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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