Game-Day Eats: Personal Meatloaf Footballs – Italian Style
Here is a fun with food “recipe” I hope you will enjoy. During football game days, if I am not out cheering on my team, I am home entertaining. These personal “footballs” are easy to make (the “strings” are admittedly taxing) and a great way to feed a rowdy group and sneak in some healthy greens. 😉 These are made “Italian-style;” however, you can season as you wish and/or use your favorite meatloaf recipe. Dried ingredients may also be substituted for fresh (e.g., garlic, basil…), but because dried products are much more potent in flavor you will need to use about 2-3 times as much fresh. In meatloaf, I find it much more simple, just as tasty, and more cost effective to use dried – plus it reduces the amount of water in your loaves, which might make them fall apart. You can also use ground turkey, chicken, or even pork – just made sure to bind, bind, bind with an egg!
- 2 lbs extra lean ground beef; higher fat might end in “deflate-gate” (I prefer to use 93/7 for these; they still turn out moist)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large egg
- 3 tbsp dried Italian seasoning
- 1 tbsp roasted garlic powder
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (omit if you do not want a hint of spice)
- 2 tbsp dried onion flake
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 16 oz can no salt added tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 3 slices mozzarella cheese (preferably from the deli counter – ~#2 thick)
- 1 box (.5 ounce) of pre-washed baby spinach and arugula mix (or your choice of greens)
- 2 tbsp Balsamic vinaigrette (or extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to lightly dress greens with)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line large cookie sheet with foil and coat with 1 tbsp olive oil evenly.
Crack egg into large mixing bowl and whisk gently. Add Italian seasoning (roll in your palms when adding to help release oils), garlic powder, red pepper flakes, dried onion flake, and salt and pepper. Combine well. Crumble in ground beef. Using hands, mix until incorporated without overworking. Add can of tomato sauce and repeat. Add bread crumbs and combine.
Divide mixture into 8 equal parts. I find the most simple way to do this is to flatten the meat evenly in bowl and use a butter knife to score in half and repeat until you have 8 pie-like chunks. Again, using your hands (one of the best tools in the kitchen; you can wear thin latex gloves if you like) shape meat into oval shaped loaves, making the tips slightly more straight until they resemble the shape of a football. Place loaves on prepared pan. Using a pastry brush, evenly coat each loaf with ketchup.
Bake in oven (center rack, uncovered) for 30 minutes (or until thickest part reaches a temperature of 160 degrees).
While loaves are baking, cut football “laces” out of cheese slices. Cut 8 almost the length of the “football” and 32 almost the width. Do yourself a favor and keep cheese very cold while cutting to avoid a lot of broken “laces.” Set aside.
When loaves are finished cooking, remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Arrange strips of cheese on top of each loaf as shown in picture.
Lightly toss greens with vinaigrette, salt and pepper to taste, and place on large platter. Arrange “footballs” on top and yell “they’re ready!”
Serves 8: One 1/4 lb loaf each person with salad.
TIPS: Whenever I add an egg binder to ground meat, I always like to add all of the spices/herbs to the mix so the flavors are thoroughly incorporated and I do not overwork the meat (it makes it tough and dry if you do). If you want to check seasoning before baking, take a small amount of meat mixture, form into patty and pan fry so you can taste. Adjust seasoning to your liking prior to baking loaves.