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Cheesy Meat Loaf

Cheesy Meat Loaf
This meat loaf includes a delicious surprise: Cubes of mozzarella cheese are blended into the meat mixture, while shredded cheese is combined with bread crumbs and herbs to create a sublime topping. Your hands are the best tool for mixing the ground beef and other ingredients; be careful not to overmix, as the meat loaf can become too dense.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 oz. dried wild mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup hot water,
      chopped, soaking liquid reserved
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbs. plus 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded, plus 6 oz., cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 lb. ground beef (80% lean)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
  • Mashed potatoes for serving (see related recipe at left)

Directions:

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 350°F. Coat the bottom of a roasting pan with 1 Tbs. of the oil.

In a deep sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the carrots, celery and onion and sauté until tender and starting to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Let cool for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the bread crumbs and 1/3 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid and soak for 5 minutes. In another bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup bread crumbs, the 1 Tbs. parsley, the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil, shredded cheese, salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, using your hands, gently mix together the ground beef, soaked bread crumbs, vegetable mixture, eggs, the 1/4 cup parsley, thyme, cubed cheese, salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and shape into a 10-by-5-inch loaf. Cover the top and sides of the meat loaf with the cheese-bread crumb mixture.

Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat loaf registers 165°F, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let the meat loaf rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with mashed potatoes. Serves 8.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen