Spicy Italian Meatloaf

September 4, 2020 (Last Updated: September 8, 2020) - As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Comfort food was on my mind with this delicious Spicy Italian Meatloaf recipe. Traditional meatloaf is something that many enjoyed in their childhood and can bring a person back to mom’s dinner table. Italian food is another one that brings comfort to many. Today, we combine the two with some scrumptious Italian flavors in a traditional meatloaf recipe. Enjoy our Italian Meatloaf Recipe.

Spicy Italian Meatloaf on a white platter with mashed potatoes and cooked green beans.

Spicy Italian Meatloaf Summary

We are constructing a well-made meatloaf, but adding an Italian flare by incorporating pepperonis, hot Italian breadcrumbs, and mozzarella cheese. The combination makes for a great weeknight dinner and can both connect you to your childhood dinner table and create new comfort connections for your kids. 

This is constructed similarly to many traditional meatloaves, but with a few key differences. Like a traditional meatloaf, we add meat, eggs, filler, cheese, and some veggie goodness to a bowl and mix. Add it all to a pan and then let that baby bake for a while. 

Our changes come with a few Italian ingredients that give this traditional favorite a refresh with a bit of spice and flare. 

Hot Italian Sausage

Growing up, the meatloaf I was exposed to was almost always just ground beef. My father-in-law, however, introduced me to adding sausage to the mix. It is delicious with this addition. It adds a bit of sweetness to the meal and since we are using hot Italian sausage, a bit of spiciness to the ordinary meal.

At my grocer, I can find hot Italian sausage in the meat case, but it is also prepackaged next to the rest of the ground pork items. If your store does not carry hot italian sausage, mixing a half pound of regular ground pork with a teaspoon of hot pepper flakes could be a good substitute. 

Another thing I have done before is to purchase the large hot Italian brats and remove them from the casing. This can work in a pinch, but packaged non-casing hot Italian sausage is the easiest. Finally, you could also just use normal ground pork if you don’t have access to hot Italian sausage or even if you just don’t like spicy food.


In the directions, I say to use 30 pepperonis, but also specify that we are talking about Hormel pepperonis, whose serving size is 28 grams. If you are using another brand of pepperoni, just weigh out 56 grams of pepperoni and chop them up. 

Plus, this really does not need to be that exact. You can add more or less pepperonis to your taste.

Hormel is widely available and appropriate for a comfort food dish like this Hot Italian Meatloaf. That is why I chose to use this specific brand and 30 pepperonis(2 servings) There are some great pepperoni brands out there and I say use what you like, but Hormel is great for this comforting recipe.

Why Chop The Pepperoni?

At first, I was cooking them in the meatloaf whole, but found the discs to be a distraction and sometimes it would make it a little more difficult to eat or cut. To solve this, I just chopped the pepperonis up 

Bread Crumb Brand

Part of what adds to the flavor of this Italian inspired version of this meatloaf is the bread crumbs I am using. Because this should be a simple dish and our recipe has an Italian inspiration, I choose to go with Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs. 

There are other breadcrumb options that you could use, but it is important to make sure to get approximately the same amount of crumbs. Different breadcrumbs could work slightly differently and impact the final moistness of the dish. 

This recipe calls for 1.5 cups of breadcrumbs, but that translates to 6 servings of this particular brand of breadcrumbs. If you are using a packaged breadcrumb that is similar to Progresso (fine cut and dried), this should translate evenly.

If you are using a different brand or something like my delicious breadcrumb recipe, you may get slightly different results. This should not deter you from making this recipe, but I just want to make sure you are aware of possible variances.

Mixed meatloaf before it is added to the loaf pan.
This is the meatloaf in a bowl mixed together before it is added to a loaf pan.


I know that many traditional meatloaf recipes call for ketchup to be used with the topping, but I feel like the sausage and pepperoni already add a bit of sweetness that just isn’t needed here. Instead of ketchup, I decided to use crushed tomato and mix it with brown sugar and a few other ingredients.

Dish to Bake This Recipe In

If you already make meatloaf and have an oven safe pan that you use, that is what you should use for this recipe. The recipe makes about the same amount as a traditional meatloaf. I use a 9x5x3 Pyrex Loaf Pan [AFFILIATE LINK]  and it works well. 

Two Baking Stages

Like most meatloaf recipes, this is a super simple process. That said, we do take the loaf out of the oven and add our topping about halfway through the bake. 30 minutes of the topping being cooked is plenty. 

Spicy Italian Meatloaf in a glass loaf pan before it goes in the oven.
Here is the meat mixture added to the pan just prior to adding to the oven for the first 30 minutes.
Meatloaf cooked for 30 minutes and the topping added in a glass loaf dish.
This is after the meatloaf has cooked for 30 minutes, the topping sauce has been added, and just prior to baking for the last 30 minutes.

History of Meatloaf

Meatloaf seems to have a sort of American icon feeling to it, but it history is more than an American comfort dish. It has been on our dinner plates for decades, but what is the origin? It is not strictly an American dish and many countries have some sort of variation or play on what we call meatloaf.

It seems only natural that this dish would be worldwide, as it is a great way to use meat up. In any society where meat needs to be used before it goes bad, meatloaf seems like a natural answer. When an animal was raised, they were often processed before Winter, as they did not have a way to feed them.

Because people had to use this meat up, so they found interesting ways to use it. Meatloaf, or some variation of it, was an ideal way to use meat. 

This was common in the northern American colonies, where they had cold winters, and the American version of meatloaf has roots in scrapple, a pork-based version of meatloaf that was a common German dish.

German immigrants in the northern colonies brought the tradition of scrapple with them, but then learned that it would also work for the beef they were raising. Like much of traditional American food, its origins lay with immigrants adapting to a new lifestyle.

Electric Grinders and Refrigeration

Prior to the advent of good mechanical grinders and good refrigeration, ground beef was not that common. In our History of the Hamburger post, we explored this a bit already and the hamburger was not invented until the early 1900s.

In any event, the advent of good refrigeration and proper equipment helped to spread the popularity of ground beef in the US and encouraged the spread of meatloaf.

The Great Depression

The great depression had folks using whatever they could find to make a meal and Meatloaf became a dinner staple during this time. Home cooks could find reasonably priced ground beef that was made from lesser cuts of beef and provide an economical, protein-filled dinner for their families. 

While meatloaf started appearing in cookbooks as early as the 1870s, the great depression solidified this dish as an American icon and became even more entrenched following World War II.

Following the war, our kitchens became places of efficiency. Canned food and easy food became more fashionable. Refrigerators, ground beef, and food industrialization all lended itself to being an obvious go-to for many in the 40s and 50s.

Tips For Cooking This Spicy Italian Meatloaf

  • If you don’t want it quite as spicy, use regular Italian sausage
  • If you want it spicier, try adding a teaspoon of red pepper flakes before you mix everything up.
  • Don’t be afraid to get your clean hands in there to mix all the ingredients up. 
  • I recommend Progresso Italian Breadcrumbs, but other brands will work (or my homemade breadcrumbs recipe ) in a pinch.
  • I use Hormel Pepperoni, as they are widely available. Other brands work.
  • Use a meat thermometer [AFFILIATE] to make sure your ground beef hits 160 Fahrenheit.

Products I Used

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Spicy Italian Meatloaf

Spicy Italian Meatloaf on a big platter with mashed potatoes and green beans.

This is a tasty, easy meatloaf with a tad of spicy Italian flare. Our Spicy Italian Meatloaf combines all of the great flavor of Italian food with the comfort of meatloaf to make a perfect easy dinner that will fill you up.

  • Author: Ben
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 6 Servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 1/2 cup Progresso Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 30 Hormel pepperonis(60g), chopped
  • 1 lb lean hamburger
  • 1/2 lb hot Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

For Topping

  • 1/2 cup crushed tomato (or tomato sauce)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheight
  2. Add beaten eggs and milk to large dish and mix.
  3. Stir in onion, carrots, breadcrumbs, cheese, and mix well.
  4. Add Pepperoni, ground burger, sausage, salt and pepper.
  5. Using hands mix all of this really well.
  6. Put evenly loaf dish
  7. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 30 minutes.
  8. While cooking mix all topping ingredients and set aside.
  9. At 30 minutes, spread topping evenly over the top of the meatloaf and bake for another 30 minutes.
  10. Using a thermometer, make sure internal temp hits 160 Fahrenheit.
  11. Let stand for 10 minutes and then serve!


  • Serving Size: 1/6 pan
  • Calories: 534 calories
  • Sugar: 245 g
  • Sodium: 1413 mg
  • Fat: 25 g
  • Saturated Fat: 36 g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 11 g
  • Carbohydrates: 42 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 32 g
  • Cholesterol: 149 mg

Keywords: Italian Meatloaf

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