Back in 2010 I wrote about my favorite meatloaf recipe. It's one I've been using since former Minneapols cop John Hennessy shared it with me in 1994. It's meatloaf with a decided Italian bent, thanks to half the meat being hot Italian sausage. I didn't think the recipe could be improved upon....until I decided to stuff it with cheese and cook it in a pellet smoker.
There is only one correct way to cook this on a pellet smoker. If you do not follow these instructions, you will end up with a grease fire of enormous magnitude. As ground beef and Italian sausage cook, they give off a huge amount of grease. You don't want that grease dripping down to the bottom of your smoker. So you need to create a free-form meatloaf and then set it on a wire rack. Then set the wire rack over a rimmed sheet pan (foil wrapped makes for easy clean up). Then set the sheet pan in your smoker. All of your grease will be captured by the sheet pan.
Do not use a meatloaf pan. The grease will make your meatloaf fall apart and it will bubble over and cause said grease fire. A free-form meatloaf will insure you have a firm and perfectly cooked meal for your guests. And if you don't have a pellet smoker, use your oven. It will still be incredibly delicious....all you will be giving up is a little smoke flavor.
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
1-1/2 pounds hot Italian Sausage
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cups of bread cubes (I use sage and onion stuffing)
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup of tomato sauce
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each of salt, pepper and Italian Seasoning
16-ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat smoker to 375º.
- Combine all ingredients except mozzarella in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly. Take a little less than half of the mixture and use it to form the base of your free-form meatloaf. Place on a wire rack.
- Cover the top of the base evenly with the mozzarella cheese. Then take the rest of the meat mixture and set it on top of the meatloaf base. Form the top, making sure to extend the meat over the base in order to seal the cheese inside.
- Set the wire rack on rimmed sheet pan and set in smoker. Bake for 90 minutes, then remove, tent with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.