Go Back

chicken meatloaf marinara

This Italian-style twist on old school American meatloaf is tasty leftover hot or cold and makes great sandwiches. It also freezes well. Serve it with sautéed spinach with lemon zest and crushed red pepper, garlic bread, or just a big crispy salad.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Resting Time10 mins
Total Time1 hr 40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Chicken, Meatloaf
Servings: 6
Author: More Time at the Table/Alyce Morgan
Cost: $23.


  • 9" x 5" loaf pan


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided (1tbsp for oiling the pan, 1 tbsp for the top of meatloaf before baking)
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread, cubed
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 pounds lean ground chicken
  • 1 ½ cups marinara sauce, divided (1 cup in meatloaf, ½ cup on top at serving time)—homemade or purchased
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/8 th teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: dried oregano and basil
  • 1/3 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces chopped button mushrooms--can sub a 3rd piece of whole wheat bread
  • Red bell pepper, cut into small dice, divided (use ½ in meat loaf, ½ on top at serving time)
  • 1/3- pound sliced mozzarella cheese (about 4½, 4-inch slices, cut in half lengthwise) -- to be used as a stuffing at the center of the loaf
  • Large ripe tomato, diced—garnish
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, shredded—garnish


  • PREP: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack at center. Brush the interior of the 9"x5" loaf pan with one of the tablespoons of olive oil. Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment paper. In a small bowl, stir the cubed bread together with the milk. Set aside and let sit 2 or more minutes.
  • MIX MEATLOAF, SPICES, VEGETABLES AND BREAD: To a large bowl, add the chicken, one cup of the marinara sauce, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, onion, garlic, mushrooms, half of the diced red pepper, and the reserved milk-soaked bread cubes. Mix well with really clean hands.
  • MAKE THE MEATLOAF IN THE PAN WITH CHEESE IN THE MIDDLE: Pat half of the meat mixture into the pan and place the slices of cheese overlapping down the middle of the loaf beginning + ending one inch from the ends so the cheese doesn’t ooze out during baking. Gently press the cheese down a little, say ¼ - ½-inch into the meatloaf. Pat other half of the meat mixture on top to create the loaf, smoothing/shaping top evenly and brushing w/ the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. It will fit.
  • BAKE, REST, SERVE: Place loaf pan on lined sheet pan and bake for 70-75 minutes, or until instant read thermometer is at 160 degrees F, turning pan around midway through cooking. Remove from oven to rack; let rest 10 minutes. Run a small, thin knife around the outside of the loaf if needed. With potholders, gently bang bottom of pan evenly on counter to loosen. Turn out onto platter, first pouring out excess liquid if necessary. To garnish, spoon other half-cup of marinara down the center of the meatloaf lengthwise; top the sauce with chopped tomato, the reserved diced red bell pepper, and fresh basil. Slice and serve hot.


COOK'S NOTES: You can use ½ cup of the marinara in place of the milk if you like or replace the cheese with sautéed zucchini and/or onions. Don't be tempted to increase the salt. If you use purchased marinara and cheese, they both are already salty. Leftovers? Heat them on an oiled stovetop grill until hot, golden and crispy.
Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2019. All rights reserved.