I’m running to catch the train this morning… again. I’m not usually prompt, my friends can surely attest to that. Growing up, I lived a quarter of a mile from my high school and yet I was late every single morning. I remember my locker being right outside the door to my first period class, frantically turning the lock to get my books before the second bell. My teacher would do this thing where she’d lock the door and make all the latecomers stand in the hallway until after she took attendance. Sorry teach, that never taught me anything. I’m still running late.
I jumped on the 7:54am train today. The train operator saw me running and kindly opened the doors for me, a rarity. I’ll probably get into work right on time, around 8:30am… but also depending on if I grab a coffee or not… which I probably will. There was a running joke we had in college about someone who shows up late with an iced coffee in hand – it doesn’t look good but I don’t worry too much about it.
I’ve been like this forever. I’ll look at the clock and say something like, “Great! I have fifteen minutes before I need to leave, plenty of time!” and next thing you know, like I’m in some kind of time vortex, I’m leaving five minutes after I should. It’s inevitable.
It could be hereditary, this tendency for lateness. In high school, I remember standing outside after volleyball practice waiting for my mom to pick me up. (My mom wouldn’t let me walk the quarter mile home once the sun went down, overprotective much?) People knew how close I lived and would offer rides and I would say, “Oh it’s okay, my mom’s on her way.”
When she finally arrived, I would play this game where I’d guess what she was making for dinner based on the way the car smelled. Most days I was right. It’s like I could almost taste the peppers and onions or the spaghetti sauce. One of my favorites was a simple, traditional Italian meatloaf. Basically a huge meatball with cheese stuffed in the middle. Served up with roasted potatoes or sometimes with a side of rice, that meatloaf was the perfect homecooked meal before heading off to “do my homework.” I put that in quotes because most days I went straight on the computer and logged onto AIM (screenname Machopink14 – why? randomly thought it was funny, no explanation behind that, I was just a real jokester ha!)
Which leads me to this recipe. A homecooked vegan Italian meatloaf that brings me back to the good parts of my high school days. An Italian meatloaf cooked with mushy love and a cheesy center – then smothered in red sauce, of course. I really wanted to get this recipe right. To be honest, nothing can replicate fatty ground beef but that’s not what I was looking to do. I wanted to create something healthier but still hearty and flavorful.
After much thought, I made this Vegan Italian Meatloaf with brown lentils for the bulk and mushrooms for the savoriness. Then I smushed some melty, stretchy vegan mozzarella cheese in the center before popping in the oven to get extra crispy around the edges. The result – an Italian meatloaf that smelled just like I remembered.
Traditional vegan Italian meatloaf made with mushrooms and lentils. Stuffed with melty, stretchy vegan mozzarella and smothered in tomato sauce.
- 3/4 cup dry green lentils (to make 1.5 cups cooked lentils)
- 1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
- 2.5 tbsp filtered water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup chopped cremini mushrooms (also called baby bella)
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper finely diced
- 1 tbsp fresh basil chopped
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 3/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (vegan)
- 3/4 cup tomato sauce (plus some extra for the outside of the loaf)
- 1/4 cup vegan mozzarella cheese (or more because why not?)
Rinse 3/4 cup dry green/brown lentils and place into a medium-sized pot with vegetable broth.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer until double in size or the broth is mostly gone - about 20-25 minutes. Make sure to follow instructions on the package, as each brand may differ a little. You want them cooked but still on the firmer side. Drain remaining vegetable broth and let cool.
Combine 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 2.5 tablespoons water. Let sit to thicken for at least 10 minutes.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium-heat. Add chopped onion, mushrooms, basil; minced garlic; diced pepper and salt + pepper. Sauté until soft. Let cool.
Preheat oven to 375F.
In a large bowl, measure out 1.5 cups of the cooked lentils. Add sautéed vegetables, flax egg, Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, and tomato sauce. Using a large spoon, mix until combined.
Add 3/4 of the mixture into a food processor and process until all ingredients are combined. Add that back to the bowl with the unprocessed mixture and combine a last time.
Cover the top of the loaf with extra tomato sauce. Bake at 375F for 45 minutes.
IMPORTANT: Let sit for 10 minutes to cool slightly before slicing. This will allow the loaf to firm up a little bit so it's easier to cut.
You can use any vegan mozzarella cheese you like but here's an easy one that we love!