How to Make the Ultimate Italian Meatloaf and Chicken Scampi


Today on Cook’s Country, I’m making a saucy Italian meatloaf. Jack explores the world of garlic substitutes. Toni’s telling us all about scampi and then Ashley’s making chicken scampi. It’s all coming up next on Cook’s Country. The first written recipe that combined ground meat with breadcrumb and spices dates back to the Romans.

But it’s easy to imagine that this kind of dish that combines valuable meat with easier to find ingredients probably dates back further than that. Nowadays you can find meatloafs flavored with all sorts of things. Today I’m gonna show you an Italian style meatloaf that’s flavored with sausage, tomatoes and Parmesan, and we’re gonna start by making a tomato sauce and we’re actually gonna cook the meatloaf in the tomato sauce so it’s almost like a braise and we’re gonna make our own very fast sauce using canned tomatoes and a little garlic. Now here I have five cloves of garlic.

Now to slice a clove of garlic, you have to peel it first and try to leave it whole, don’t smash it.

And then using a sharp knife, just very carefully thinly slice the garlic. There we go. Now to cook the sauce, we’re just gonna use a medium sauce pan over medium heat and I have a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan, and it’s just shimmering now so I’m gonna add the garlic.

We’re just gonna cook the garlic for about a minute until it’s fragrant and it starts to brown a little bit around the edges. So the garlic has been cooking for about a minute and you can see it’s softened and starting to turn lightly golden around the edges.

That’s when it’s time to add the canned tomatoes. Now I’m using two types of canned tomatoes here. This is a small 15 ounce can of tomato sauce.

And then this is a big can, a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes and the combination of the smooth sauce and the slightly chunky crushed tomatoes is the perfect consistency here. Now we’re just gonna flavor the sauce with little salt, quarter teaspoon of salt, quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

And that’s it for our super whole tomato sauce. We just need to let this simmer gently for about five minutes. And while that’s simmering, we’re gonna turn our attention to the meatloaf. Now, most meatloaves mix in breadcrumbs or crackers which not only stretches the meat but it also tenderizes the meatloaf. And today I’m going to use saltine crackers cause they have a very mild flavor, they’re slightly salty and they make a very delicate textured meatloaf, but we have to crush them first.

This is the fun part. So this is 35 saltines which is basically one sleeve minus one, which I always taste just to make sure they’re fresh. I’m gonna put them in a big bag, leave a little air pocket and now the fun begins, the crushing. Use a good rolling pin.

You can use a meat pounder.

You can use the back of a spoon. Get out all the crumbs right to a nice big bowl. And we’re gonna let them soften with a little bit of milk and eggs. So this is three quarters of a cup of whole milk and two large eggs. You just wanna stir this together till it’s a nice even consistency.

And we’re just gonna let it sit for about five minutes to really soften up those crumbs. The sauce has been simmering for five minutes. It doesn’t really look much different, but the smell is a little more intense as the garlic has really permeated through those tomatoes. So I’m gonna turn this sauce off, set it aside for now. And now let’s focus on the meatloaf.

So here are the saltine crumbs that have been sitting with the milk and eggs. You can see they’re nice and soft. I’m just gonna take a whisk to it. Really break up any big pieces of cracker that are left behind. Now it’s time to add some flavor.

I’m gonna start by adding a teaspoon of dried oregano, teaspoon of granulated garlic, half a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of pepper, quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes and last but definitely not least, some Parmesan. Now I’m gonna use fresh grated Parmesan and I’m going to grate it using a rasp style grater because those fine shreds will really melt into the meatloaf. And this is about two ounces of Parmesan, which when grated up in this fluffy style measures about a cup. That’s about it for the Parmesan. Now we’re gonna whisk all this together.

And I like doing this before you add the meat. That way all the flavors get evenly mixed with the panade and it’s easier to combine the meat in with this mixture.

That’s it for all the seasonings. Now it’s time to add the beef. Now this is a pound of 85% lean ground beef.

I’m just gonna kind of pull it apart and drop it into the bowl. Now time for the sausage. So this is a pound of sweet Italian sausage and I’ve removed it from its casings. Although nowadays I often find patties of the stuff at the supermarket, that’s almost easier to work with and just like the beef, I’m pulling it into small pieces before dropping it into the bowl to make it easier to mix in the end. Now it’s time to mix this all together and I like to take my rings off and really get my hands deep into the mixture because your hands are really the best tools for evenly mixing this all together.

Time to shape this mixture into a nice tidy meatloaf. And as I mentioned earlier, we’re gonna cook the meatloaf with the sauce.

So I’m gonna use a casserole dish that just keeps everything nice and tidy in the oven. So this is a 9 by 13 inch baking dish and I’ve already sprayed it with vegetable oil spray. Take the mixture, put it right into the center of the dish.

Shape this into a nine by five inch meatloaf. And I found if your hands are a little wet, the meat doesn’t really stick to you as much.

So that looks pretty good. Gonna wash my hands and now I’m gonna pour the sauce right over the top of the meatloaf and it’s gonna fall down into the dish all around it. Now I’m just gonna cover the dish with foil, put it on a rimmed baking sheet just to catch any drips that might happen.

And we’re gonna bake this in a 400 degree oven for about an hour and 10 minutes until the meatloaf registers 160. It’s been an hour and 10 minutes and it’s time to check the meatloaf. Oh, you can smell it. Oh, it smells delicious. Oh, that is a good looking meatloaf.

I love seeing all the little bubbles in the sauce around the edge. Again, we’re looking for a temperature of 160 in the middle. There we go, 162, perfect. So here I have about a cup of shredded fontina and I shredded this on the large holes of the box grater.

And I’m just gonna sprinkle it right on top of the meatloaf and run it under the broiler for just a few minutes.

That just gives it a nice cheesy crown. Oh, that’s a looker. Look at that beauty. I love the melted cheese on top. Now the trick here is you have to let this meatloaf rest for at least 15 minutes so it firms up.

Otherwise it’ll just crumble apart. So let it cool for 15 and then we can come back and taste it. The meatloaf has rested for 15 minutes and now I’m gonna take it out of the pan and transfer it to a cutting board.

The sauce smells amazing. Now using a wide flat spoon, I’m just gonna pull out any grease that has cooled on the top of the sauce.

Now to serve it, what I like to do is slice the meatloaf then put it back into the sauce. So nice big slices of meatloaf, about an inch thick or so. That smells delicious, back into the sauce. I’m gonna sprinkle it with a little bit of fresh basil. It’s about three tablespoons of coarsely chopped basil.

Now, time to taste.

In my house, the end pieces always go first and I am an end piece lever. So this one on the end is calling my name, just a little extra sauce. It is so tender. And you can taste the sausage and the Parmesan, little kick of pepper flakes.

It tastes great out of the oven. But if you happen to have any leftover the next day, it makes the best sandwich. So if you wanna make this meatloaf, remember make a quick sauce using canned tomatoes, use crushed saltines in the meatloaf and finish with a little fontina under the broiler. From Cook’s Country, a fabulous recipe for Italian meatloaf. It’s just like a big old meatball and a pile of sauce.

It is so good. – I love garlic. I probably use garlic every day. Fresh garlic is my friend, but I know many of you struggle with peeling and mincing it and you are looking for shortcuts. So before we get to the substitutes you can use and those you can’t, let’s talk a little about where garlic flavor comes from.

You give it a sniff, the head of garlic has actually no aroma. You are creating garlic flavor in aroma with your knife. You simply go like this and suddenly what has no flavor in aroma has a ton of flavor in aroma. What’s happening is that there are flavor molecules trapped within the cell structure. And when the knife cuts through the cell walls, suddenly these compounds can combine and create something called allicin.

Allicin is the thing that makes garlic so amazing. So that will explain what works and doesn’t work when it comes to the substitutes. So let’s start off with the dried things, granulated garlic and garlic powder that you can keep in your pantry. Now, these are fine in a spice rub where fresh garlic would burn, but they don’t have the same flavor as fresh garlic because that flavor compound that is created by the knife is fleeting and obviously dried products do not have fresh garlic flavor. So they have a place in the kitchen but they are not a substitute for fresh garlic.

So you may be thinking okay, let’s get something closer to fresh garlic. We have minced garlic here, or garlic paste in a tube. We actually tried five different brands and frankly, they were all pretty terrible. There were two problems, no garlic flavor and very sour. Now the no garlic flavor is coming from the fact that the chemical reaction that produces the flavor occurred when this was minced or turned into a paste months ago and it’s long gone.

The sourness is coming from citric acid. I need to add that as a preservative. So basically all you get is tartness, no garlic flavor. Enough with the bad news, let’s have some good news. Whole peeled cloves.

This is Spice World brand. We liked it quite a lot. Other brands, unbranded supermarket brands can be fine as well. Two things I want you to do. I want you to look at the cloves.

So I’m gonna actually pick this up. I don’t wanna see any discoloration or bruising cause that’s a sign that the garlic is over the hill.

Second thing is this is gonna look a little odd, but I want you to do this at the supermarket. Give it a sniff. If it’s damaged, you can actually smell the garlic through the plastic.

This, no smell, good to go. It’s a great option. And finally, an even easier option that doesn’t even require any mincing or chopping. This is frozen pureed garlic. We tested this brand, Dorot.

We really liked it, has wonderful garlic flavor. Now you may be thinking, why does this work and the other products don’t? It’s flash frozen within 90 minutes of being pureed. So that chemical reaction is preserved as is the garlic flavor. The other thing is because it’s frozen, they don’t need the citric acid so it doesn’t have any of that tartness in it.

It’s just garlic, water, salt and oil. Super simple to use, you just take it out of the freezer and you see these little cubes.

You just pop out one of them, pop it out and that’s equal to one clove of garlic. Pop it out again, two cloves. Oh, this is fun.

So there you have it. For those of you who don’t wanna be dealing with fresh garlic, you now have options. – Today, I’m asparagus baked in foil. First let’s trim the asparagus. Make sure they measure about a quarter inch thick at their base.

That just assures everything cooks evenly. Arrange the asparagus in the center of a foil line baking sheet. You wanna be sure to leave a border between the asparagus and the edge of the foil.

Now let’s add some flavor. Sprinkle butter, shallot, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper evenly over the asparagus.

Time to put together our foil packet. Place another sheet of foil over the asparagus. Pinch the sheets together and fold in toward the center. Now it’s time to cook the asparagus, put in the oven for 18 minutes. Take the asparagus out of the oven and let it continue steam in the packet for another five minutes.

This will let it gently finish cooking. Carefully cut open the top of the packet to allow the steam to escape. This steam is really, really hot so be careful to open it away from you. Sprinkle thyme and lemon juice over the asparagus. Toss gently with tongs so that all those flavors get around the asparagus.

Transfer the asparagus to a serving platter and get any of that leftover liquid on top, it’s so delicious.

Top the whole thing with some salty Parmesan cheese and dig in. – Shrimp scampi is yet another example of resourceful immigrants adapting their native techniques to American ingredients. Shrimp scampi is an Italian-American dish featuring shrimp sauteed with lots of garlic and white wine. It became popular in the US in the 1920s.

The term scampi itself refers to langoustines, small lobster like shellfish from the Northern Atlantic. A famous Venetian dish called spaghetti alla busara features langoustines with pasta and tomatoes, but langoustines are not widely available in the US so those Italian immigrants swapped the langoustines for more readily available shrimp. The sauce has proved so popular that now it appears on restaurant menus alongside other items like fish, chicken, and even cauliflower. And at Cook’s country, we created our own take using chicken. – If you’ve ever been to the Olive Garden, then most likely you have heard of chicken scampi.

It’s very similar to shrimp scampi, but it has fried chicken tenders in it. So I wanted to make my own version of this, but I wanted to lighten it up a bit.

So let me show you what I came up with. I’m gonna start by showing you the chicken tenderloins here and how to prepare them. So I’m just gonna take some shears.

Here we have two pounds of the tenderloins and you’re gonna see a tendon at the end of the tenderloin. And if you don’t take this part off, it’s just gonna be pretty chewy. So I like to remove it if possible. Using my shears, just wanna remove that tendon just like so. I’ve got one more tendon.

So I’ve got my paper towels here. You always wanna pat it dry first to wick away any moisture. And then I’m gonna season both sides with some salt and pepper. So here I have my breading station, I’ve got a couple eggs and I’m gonna add a little bit of salt to it just to help season it, half a teaspoon of salt. Give that a good whisk.

And then here I have three quarters of a cup of all purpose flour.

So what you wanna do is you wanna have one hand for working with the wet stuff, one hand for working with the dry stuff and just work right down the counter. I’m gonna land everything onto this large plate here. I’m gonna keep flouring this chicken and then I’m gonna wash up and it’s gonna be time to cook. Now it’s time to cook our chicken tenders.

I’m gonna cook them half a batch at a time in this 12 inch non-stick skillet. I’ve got a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil heating up right now and that’s over medium high heat. And when working in batches with meats, I always like to start clockwise. That way, I know which one I put down first. So that’ll be the one that’s gonna finish first or need to be turned first.

So I’m gonna cook these on both sides about three minutes per side until the chicken registers 160 degrees. It’s been about three minutes so I’m gonna flip them over cause they are nice and brown.

They’re golden brown, just turning a little darker and they look perfect. So again, I’m starting at 12 o’clock, working my way around the skillet. This will take about three more minutes until 160 degrees.

I’m gonna take the temperature and again, I’m looking for 160 degrees. Perfect, I’m gonna transfer them to this plate here. I’m gonna put this aside and cover it with some aluminum foil. I have some paper towels here because I need to wipe out the skillet. So I have two more tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

I’m gonna return the heat on the pan to medium high. This pan is gonna come up to temperature pretty quickly. I’m gonna cook the second batch of chicken just like I cooked the first batch. The chicken is done cooking. I went ahead and cleaned out the pan with those paper towels and now I’m gonna add two more tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to the now empty pan and heat it over medium high heat until shimmering.

So while that’s coming up to temperature, here is a red bell pepper which is one of the signature elements of the original dish. So I’m going to prepare this just by slicing it thin, but I need to stem and seed it first. So what I like to do is I just want to cut off the bottom and then I like to just cut the sides off and I think of it as a square. I do that again on this side, just like that, one more time. And now you just have the membranes in this seed left.

I run my knife just along the membranes. Now if you have any leftover seeds, you can just wipe them away to the side and we’re gonna be, as I said, slicing this thinly. So the oil is now shimmering so I’m gonna add the bell pepper to the pan.

I’m gonna add a little bit of salt. We have half a teaspoon of salt and I’m gonna cook this pepper until it’s nice and tender and well browned which will take five to seven minutes.

Because it’s scampi, you can imagine that we’re gonna be using a good amount of garlic in this recipe. So here I have eight cloves of garlic that I’ve sliced thinly, and I’m gonna add it to the pan here. So I’m gonna cook this until fragrant which will take about a minute.

So it’s definitely fragrant at this stage and now I’m gonna add the flour. So I have a tablespoon of flour and I’m gonna just sprinkle it over the vegetables.

And this is gonna act as a thickener for this sauce. It’s one of my favorite ways to thicken a sauce without having to make something like a roux, which can be a lot more time consuming and just let it cook for about a minute to take that raw flour bite out of it. Now I’m gonna add one and a quarter cups of some chicken broth.

You wanna go through, make sure to pick up any of the fond or the brown bits at the bottom of the skillet, if there are any. And then here I have three quarters of a cup of white wine that I’m gonna add just in there as well.

I’m gonna bring the sauce up to a boil. It looks like we’re almost there. And then I’m gonna let it continue to cook until it reduces down to one and a half cups which will take five to seven minutes. This sauce is nice and reduced and now I’m gonna just finish it by adding a little bit of butter. I’ve got four tablespoons of butter, which I cut into four pieces, and this is gonna help just thicken this sauce ever so slightly.

And it’s also gonna provide a little bit more richness too. So I’m gonna stir this until the butter has melted, this smells so good.

Here are my chicken tenders that have been waiting very patiently and now I’m gonna return all of them to the skillet and I wanna toss to coat them cause we are almost done and we’re still on low heat so you wanna just let them get nice and coated and let them hang out in the sauce for about two minutes. The chicken is nice and coated and now I’m gonna transfer it to this beautiful serving platter. So you can try and put the chicken down first.

Oh my goodness, the smells so good. Now let’s top it with the sauce. No garlic slices left behind on my watch and the finishing touch is a little bit of parsley, I have a tablespoon of some chopped fresh parsley. I just wanna sprinkle it all over. I’m gonna grab a tender and some pepper, get some of that sauce.

And the texture of this sauce, it’s like velvet. And it’s because we added that flour and a little bit of butter. In this dish, you can serve it with pasta but you can also serve it with some crusty bread, which is what I’m gonna be serving it with today.

Let’s do this. That is so good.

The peppers, the butter, the garlic, it’s rich but not too rich. The peppers are super tender. That parsley gives a little bit of freshness at the end and the acidity from the white wine and that chicken broth. This is absolutely delicious. So for a light chicken scampi, coat the chicken with egg and flour, add a lot of thinly sliced garlic and then finish with a little bit of butter.

Read More: How to Make One-Pot Chicken Jardinière and One-Pan Mediterranean Shrimp

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