A little meat goes a long way in this version of the classic--bringing that powerful pop of umami to this mostly plant-based take. You can double up and freeze one for later: Simply cover one loaf in plastic wrap before baking, pressing to remove air. Wrap with heavy-duty foil, and store in the freezer up to 2 months. Thaw completely in refrigerator before unwrapping and baking as directed.
3 large red bell peppers
8 ounces presliced cremini mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup unsalted chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 10 minutes or until blackened. Wrap peppers in foil, sealing edges. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel. Finely chop 2 pepper halves; place in a large bowl. Set aside remaining 4 pepper halves.
Reduce oven temperature to 375°.
Place mushrooms in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until finely chopped.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 6 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add mushrooms; sauté 10 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring occasionally. Cool 5 minutes. Add mushroom mixture to chopped bell peppers.
Place chickpeas and peas in food processor (do not clean from mushrooms); pulse 10 times or until finely chopped. Add pea mixture to mushroom mixture. Add 2 tablespoons basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, walnuts, and next 7 ingredients (through egg); gently mix until well combined. Spoon mixture into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 40 minutes or until a thermometer registers 155°. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut loaf into 6 slices. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons basil.
Combine remaining 4 bell pepper halves, vinegar, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Serve sauce with meat loaf.
I'm pretty quick in the kitchen, but this is one to save for those times when you feel like puttering in the kitchen. I made the loaf the night before, then baked it in the morning while getting ready for work. It was easy to cut slices and reheat them covered in the microwave for a speedy dinner. My only change was a shortcut: to use bottled roasted red peppers and a good organic ketchup instead of the red bell pepper sauce. And I had no fresh basil, so used a full teaspoon of dried, and used egg substitute because it was there. I think this should be called "Toasted Walnut Loaf," as that's the dominant flavor and the idea of of "meatloaf" might cause disappointment for a meat-eater. We loved it the first night with corn on the cob, then had it again with mashed potatoes and steamed green beans.
There is a lot of prep work but well worth it and as one review said, double the recipe because it's labor intensive. I made one loaf with intention to bring some to my friends. Nope! Just one container as the rest is for me :-) That's how good it is. Dense with great umami and just 1/2 lb of ground beef. The veggies really come through, especially the cremini mushrooms. I used 10 ozs instead of 8.
This meatloaf was amazing. We just had it and it did take me quite a while to prep but it was delicious. My 2 year old asked for seconds. I don't normally love roasted red peppers but the sauce was incredible. Make the sauce fresh - it's worth the extra 5 minutes. You can roast the peppers while prepping everything else. Also, make a double batch when you make this since it is labor intensive. A double batch will make 3 meat loafs for my family. Totally delicious with complex flavors. I didn't make tonight's with walnuts I left those out, and loved it. I made 1 loaf with walnuts for the future.
If you're willing to put in the time on this one, it's worth it. My non-veggie-loving husband and kids loved this! The only change I made was to use a jar of roasted red peppers. I will make this again, but since it was a bit on the crumbly side, I may add another egg. And I will definitely double the sauce, because for us, that's what really put it over the edge, flavor wise.
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