classic meatloaf recipe with a twist

Meatloaf is an American comfort food classic, but in this recipe, Carlos Leo, the recipe developer behind Spoonabilities, makes things a bit more interesting. His classic meatloaf recipe with a twist features all of the usual meatloaf ingredients — ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and, of course, ground beef — with an added Italian twist: pesto!

"I didn’t think too much," Leo says of his inspiration for this dish. "Pesto came to my mind. Maybe because I have an unopened jar of pesto. I’m always about to maximize the ingredients that I have on my hands."

Using up leftovers is great motivation for creativity in the kitchen, but that’s not the only reason we love this twist on the classic. The pesto adds not just flavor to the meatloaf, boasting rich flavors of olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and basil, but it also adds an essential ingredient for any successful meatloaf: moisture.

While this meatloaf is delightful with traditional sides like mashed potatoes, green beans, or air fryer roasted veg, you could also push the Italian spin even further and serve it with pasta. Either way, Leo says, it’s sure to be delicious.

Gather the ingredients for this classic meatloaf recipe with a twist

classic meatloaf recipe with a twist ingredients

To make this classic meatloaf recipe with a twist, you’ll need ground beef — a pound and a half should do it, and choose the lean stuff: You’ll be adding a lot of moisture with the scallions, salsa, egg, and pesto, and you don’t want the final dish to be too heavy.

The meat mixture also features grated Parmesan cheese for flavor, panko breadcrumbs for structure, and parsley, onion and garlic powders, salt, and pepper to season. Ketchup and pesto are combined to make the topping, which will bake up into a lovely, flavorful crust on top of the finished meatloaf.

Make the meat mixture for this classic meatloaf recipe with a twist

classic meatloaf recipe with a twist bowl of ingredients

To make the classic meatloaf recipe with a twist, first preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, either grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan or line a sheet pan with parchment paper if you’d rather bake your meatloaf free-form.

Next, turn your attention to the meatloaf mixture. In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, scallions, parsley, Parmesan cheese, salsa, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt, black pepper, egg, half a cup of pesto, and the ground beef. Mix well to combine, but take care not to over-mix, which could make your meatloaf tough instead of tender.

Form your meatloaf

classic meatloaf before cooking

Next, it’s time to form the meatloaf! In this classic meatloaf recipe with a twist, Leo notes that you can either use a traditional loaf pan, or for a prettier presentation, form a free-standing loaf on a lined sheet pan.

If you’re opting for the latter, Leo cautions, "I recommend pressing the meat. I didn’t do it too tight, and it was a bit loose."

Once the loaf is formed, mix the ketchup and remaining pesto together, and spread this glaze over the top of the loaf. The sugar in the ketchup will caramelize in the oven, giving you a lovely crust.

Bake and serve your meatloaf

classic meatloaf recipe with a twist

Patience will be needed for the next step: baking! Put your meatloaf in the oven for about 45 minutes. Bake until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

When it emerges, it will be smelling phenomenal — but you’ve got to wait just a little bit longer before digging in. Leo recommends letting the meatloaf stand for 10 minutes before slicing. You’ll be rewarded with nice, even slices that won’t crumble or fall apart. Leftovers are just as tasty reheated or served cold on a sandwich!

  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup salsa
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup pesto, divided
  • 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or line a baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, scallions, parsley, Parmesan cheese, salsa, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt, black pepper, egg, ½ cup of pesto, and the ground beef. Mix well but do not overmix.
  3. Add the meat mixture to the greased loaf pan, or form the meat into a tight loaf on the lined baking dish.
  4. Mix together the ketchup with the remaining ¼ cup pesto. Spread the pesto-ketchup mixture on top of the loaf.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Let stand in pan for 10 minutes before slicing.
  6. Serve and enjoy.