This yummy Italian meat loaf filled with tomato sauce and cheese is good enough to win over even those who typically dislike the traditional dish.
Italian Meat Loaf Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Tomato and cheese is a popular pairing in many Italian and Italian-inspired dishes. While it’s expected in foods like pizza, pasta and chicken Parm, the dynamic duo also stars in other entrees like Italian meat loaf, a variation of classic meat loaf that I’d argue is better than the original.

Here’s how to make an Italian meat loaf the whole family will love.

Ingredients for Italian Meat Loaf

  • Ground beef: This recipe calls for 90% lean ground beef, although many meat loaf recipes call for a higher fat ratio (more fat usually translates to more flavor). However, for meat loaves that are baked in a loaf pan—as opposed to shaped into a loaf and placed in a baking dish—using a leaner beef can be helpful because the meat will sit in less fat as it cooks.
  • Tomato sauce: Tomato sauce is one of the key ingredients in this Italian-inspired meat loaf. It provides robust flavor and moisture for the meat mixture.
  • Bread crumbs: Our recipe calls for dry bread crumbs, but you can use panko or Italian bread crumbs if that’s what you have on hand. Reduce the amount of salt, oregano and minced onion in the recipe if using Italian bread crumbs.
  • Mushrooms: Canned sliced mushrooms add a little heartiness to the recipe. You can use fresh mushrooms as well, but you’ll have to cook and drain them first. Use cremini or white mushrooms if you opt for fresh mushrooms.
  • Mozzarella: Mozzarella cheese always pairs perfectly with tomato sauce. Since the cheese is jelly-rolled into the loaf, you can count on each bite containing at least a little cheese.


Step 1: Make the meat mixture

Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs, egg, onion, salt, oregano and 3/4 cup tomato sauce. Then, add the beef, mixing lightly but thoroughly.

Step 2: Prepare to roll out the beef mixture

Cut two pieces of waxed paper that are each 15 inches long. (You’ll use this as a surface to roll out the beef mixture on.)

After you’ve cut the paper, place the meat mixture on the center of one piece, and cover the meat with the other piece.

Step 3: Shape the meat loaf

Italian Meat Loaf Ft23 3950 St 1103 1 SseditTMB STUDIO

Use a rolling pin on top of the waxed paper to press the meat into a 13×9-inch rectangle. Once it’s spread out, remove the top sheet of waxed paper.

Step 4: Roll up the meat loaf

Italian Meat Loaf Ft23 3950 St 1103 2 3 4 SseditTMB STUDIO

Top the meat evenly with the mozzarella, mushrooms and the remaining tomato sauce. Then, roll up the meat, jelly-roll style, starting at a short edge, using the waxed paper to help roll the loaf.

Step 5: Begin baking the meat loaf

Italian Meat Loaf Ft23 3950 St 1103 5 SseditTMB STUDIO

Place the rolled meat loaf, seam side down, in a greased 9×5-inch loaf pan. Seal the ends securely. Bake for 30 minutes.

Step 6: Finish the meat loaf

Pull the meat loaf out of the oven, and drain any juices in the dish. Put the meat loaf back in the oven, continuing to bake until a thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf registers 160°, 25 to 30 minutes longer. If desired, serve the meat loaf with marinara sauce and oregano.

Italian Meat Loaf Ft23 3950 St 1103 6 SseditTMB STUDIO

Italian Meat Loaf Variations

There are plenty of other ways to make meat loaf, but there are a few ways to customize this Italian meat loaf:

  • Swap out the meat: If you like to make meat loaf recipes with a different kind of meat, feel free to use a mixture of ground beef and pork or even ground beef and Italian sausage for more flavor.
  • Use marinara sauce instead of tomato sauce: Although there is a difference between marinara and tomato sauce, you can swap out one for the other to make Italian meat loaf. If you use a jarred pasta sauce or your favorite marinara recipe in place of the tomato sauce, simply omit the salt, oregano and dried minced onion in the recipe.
  • Make it extra-cheesy: For a little extra cheese, add grated Parmesan to the mixture of shredded mozzarella.
  • Add veggies: Add diced green bell peppers, olives or freshly chopped onion to the meat mixture along with the oregano and bread crumbs.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs: If you have some on hand, a little fresh basil or parsley would add more Italian-inspired flavor to the meat loaf.

How to Store Italian Meat Loaf

Store the meat loaf in an airtight container in the fridge for three to four days. Reheat leftovers in the oven at 350° until the meat reaches 165°. Otherwise, use the microwave if you’re in a hurry.

To freeze Italian meat loaf, let it cool completely after baking. Wrap it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, then place in a freezer-safe resealable plastic bag. Store in the freezer for up to three months. Individual slices can be kept in an airtight container and frozen, as well.

Thaw the Italian meat loaf in the fridge overnight, and bake at 350° until heated through, once again checking for an internal temperature of 165°.

Italian Meat Loaf Tips

Italian Meat Loaf Ft23 3950 St 1103 7 SseditTMB STUDIO

How can you make sure the meat loaf is juicy?

Overworked meat equals tough meat loaf, so try not to overmix the meat mixture before rolling it out.

Also, be patient when the meat loaf comes out of the oven, because digging in too early will result in slices that have lost their juices to the baking dish instead of redistributed evenly throughout each bite. Wait 5 to 10 minutes before cutting the meat loaf.

Can you make Italian meat loaf without a loaf pan?

If you don’t have a loaf pan on hand, place the rolled-up loaf, seam side down, in a greased 13×9-inch baking dish. A baking sheet works in a pinch too.

What do you serve with Italian meat loaf?

There are plenty of meat loaf sides that would pair nicely with Italian meat loaf. Consider mashed or roasted potatoes, pasta or even breadsticks as heartier options. Roasted Brussels sprouts, steamed corn and a side salad would make lovely lighter choices.

How can you use leftover Italian meat loaf?

Make leftovers into a meat loaf sandwich! Take a meat loaf slice, and sear it in a frying pan to get the faces crispy. Serve on sourdough bread or an Italian roll with marinara sauce and cheese.

Italian Meat Loaf

My husband doesn't even like meat loaf, but he'll always eat this irresistible Italian meatloaf! He likes this dish because it offers a wide variety of flavors. —Myra Innes, Auburn, Kansas
Italian Meat Loaf Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time

Prep: 15 min. Bake: 55 min.


8 servings


  • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce, divided
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon dried minced onion
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef (90% lean)
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 jar (6 ounces) sliced mushrooms, drained
  • Optional: Marinara sauce and minced fresh oregano


  1. Preheat oven to 375°. In large bowl, combine 3/4 cup tomato sauce, crumbs, egg, onion, salt and oregano; add beef. Mix lightly but thoroughly. Cut 2 pieces of waxed paper 15 in. long. Place meat mixture in center of 1 rectangle; cover with the other.
  2. With a rolling pin, press meat into a 13x9-in. rectangle. Remove top sheet of waxed paper. Top with cheese, mushrooms and remaining 1/4 cup tomato sauce. Roll up meat, jelly-roll style, starting at a narrow end; use waxed paper to help. Place meat seam side down; seal ends securely. Place in a greased 9x5-in. loaf pan.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes. Drain; bake until a thermometer reads 160°, 25-30 minutes longer. If desired, serve the meat loaf with marinara and oregano.

Nutrition Facts

1 piece: 245 calories, 13g fat (6g saturated fat), 93mg cholesterol, 677mg sodium, 8g carbohydrate (2g sugars, 1g fiber), 24g protein.