Free-Form Fennel Seed Meatloaf

“I season this meatloaf with fennel and celery seeds so it’s more like a giant polpette [meatball],” says Anya Fernald. For a moist meatloaf, she says it’s best to use ground meat that’s at least 20 percent fat. Plus: Ultimate Comfort Food 

Active Time:
40 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs


  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs

  • 1/2 cup whole milk

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped

  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds

  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano

  • 2 teaspoons celery seeds

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 2 3/4 pounds ground beef chuck (80 percent lean)


  1. Preheat the oven to 425° and line the bottom of a roasting pan with parchment paper. In a bowl, soak the bread crumbs in the milk.

  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Scrape the vegetables into a large bowl and let cool. Add the tomato paste, eggs, milk-soaked bread crumbs, ground fennel, oregano, celery seeds, crushed red pepper, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper and stir to form a paste. Using your hands, gently work in the ground beef until combined; do not overmix.

  3. Transfer the meat mixture to the roasting pan and shape it into an oval loaf about 10 inches long. Bake the meatloaf for 50 to 60 minutes, until browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 150°. Let the meatloaf rest for 15 minutes, then cut into thick slices and serve.

Make Ahead

The baked meatloaf can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Cover with foil and reheat in a 325° oven.

Suggested Pairing

Cabernet Franc often has a slight herbal edge, which goes nicely with this rich, herb-scented meatloaf. Try one from California or one from France’s Loire Valley.

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