Never Fails Me Meatloaf

"Finally, I finally found a winning recipe for meatloaf and you wont believe the ingredient list! This meatloaf is on the sweet side...contains 1 tsp of brown sugar in both the loaf and the skip this one if that doesn't appeal to you...or try it anyway to see if you like the moist texture and skip the sugar. I am mostly posting this so I don't forget how I made it next time we get the taste for meatloaf...but maybe somebody out there has been looking for a filling, moist meatloaf and wants to give this a try! I LOVED the addition of the pasta in this meatloaf and from now on, even if I try a new meatloaf recipe, I'm going to add the just made it the perfect texture for me. Maybe you will like it too! This meatloaf is very moist and flavorful. Despite the amount of bbq sauce in the loaf, we don't feel it is an overwhelming flavor after cooking. It doesn't cut as cleanly as some, but who cares when it tastes this good? Just use a narrow spatula to get the cut slices out of the pan. To eleminate any issue with cutting and to cut down on the prep time, just use a mini muffin pan instead."
photo by Caryn Dalton photo by Caryn Dalton
photo by Caryn Dalton
photo by Caryn Dalton photo by Caryn Dalton
Ready In:


  • 2 lbs lean ground beef, thawed (no more than 15% fat or it'll be swimming in grease and shrink up on you...we use 10% or less and I)
  • 2 teaspoons horseradish sauce
  • 14 cup light mayonnaise (or full fat..but fat free has too much water in it)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (we use the garlic in a jar that comes pre-minced or minced microwave roasted garlic)
  • 12 cup favorite barbecue sauce (we used Masterpiece Smokey Flavor)
  • 14 cup acini di pepe pasta (can substitute with couscous)
  • 18 cup acini di pepe pasta (can substitute with couscous)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 12 - 1 cup of ground quick-cooking oatmeal or 1/2 cup crushed Ritz cracker
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar (I use sugar in the raw)
  • For Topping

  • 13 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar


  • Heat oven to 375. Wash hands.
  • Pulse the crackers or oats in a food processor a couple of times. You don't want to see whole oats in the end.
  • In a clean bowl, mix all ingredients except meat and oats (or crackers) well. Then add ground meat and mix only as much as is needed to incorporate all ingredients. Try not to overmix because this tends to make your meatloaf mixture more dense than is necessary. Mixing gently with your hands, mix in the oats or crackers until mixture is no longer runnuy. If it is, add more crushed crackers, oatmeal and/or pasta, remembering that the pasta will absorb excess liquid only as it cooks. Important: when right, the mixture should retain a shape made by your hand. If you don't get this part right, your meatloaf will not retain its shape when cooked. If you get the mix right, it will cut nicely and likely lose a crumble or two when transfering from the pan to plate. For that reason, I do this in mini muffin pans too and they come out just right, not crumbling.
  • Put mixture into a loaf pan. Pat lightly to smooth out top of loaf. Cover loaf pan with foil and put in oven. Prepare topping by mixing ketchup with the 1 tsp of brown sugar and set aside.
  • After 45 minutes, carefully pour off excess grease (place something on top of loaf so it doesn't fall OR use a turkey baster to suck out the juices) and thn spread topping over meatloaf. Put back in oven, uncovered. Cook for 5 more minutes and check to see if loaf is done by using a thermometer reading. If not done, check every five minutes until done. It is done and safe to eat at 160 degrees, but you can take it out at 152 and let it rest for five minutes and the temp will rise to a safe temperature.
  • I do not trust the "it's done if it aint pink no more" method because ground meat products can both look brown long before they are safe to eat and look pink long after they are actually done. A thermometer is just easier to use and safer too. So, you use your own judgment on cook time. I pulled mine out of the oven after 52 minutes of cook time and it was 161 degrees and DELICIOUS.
  • If you are making mini muffins, start your initial cook time at 30 minutes and keep checking with your temp till the center of the muffins reach at least 155. Also, you still have to remove the excess grease from the pans during cooking. For that reason, when making meatloaf muffins, I put a baking sheet under the pan to catch drips.
  • A word of warning: This recipe is not friendly to subbing out the pasta or the lean ground meat. If you omit the pasta, the loaf will not be moist and hold its flavor. If you use higher fat ground meat, your pasta will be cooked in grease and the loaf will be mis-shapen, swimming in grease and unappetizing. Believe me, I know -- I've tried both. When you have both ingredients, just try it as it's written and most of all:

  • Enjoy.

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  1. Dh and I really enjoyed this. I used 1-1/2 pounds really lean ground beef. The kids tasted the bbq unfortunately even though I didn't tell them it was in it, but that is probably because I used less ground beef. I used a little more brown sugar in the topping and used couscous as the store I went to didn't have the pasta. Thank you again for adopting me, Caryn!!


I've lived in several states, and they have all added a bit of "flavor" to my culinary preferences. I love comfort food and as I've aged, I seek ways to make old favorites more healthy. For me, healthy is defined by what we have learned about gut health over the years. I no longer cook the way I used to, but I still crave those old favorites. It's quite likely that something I posted here more than a decade ago is no longer made in my kitchen, or has been greatly altered to fit our new model. I appreciate it when people take the time to post great recipes because the internet is so much quicker and convenient to use than my stash of cookbooks, cherished as they are. I also appreciate reading reviews that people post, providing they are actually helpful. I just don't understand rudeness, competitiveness and the like and wish people didn't feel the need to inject negative attitudes into all the positive. I feel a site like this one can help many people and it's a great way to collaborate and share treasures in our kitchens. I'm glad to have access and to be a part of the community.
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