For the most tender, moist meat loaf, use meat with 20 percent fat. A meat loaf pan, a wonderful recent invention consisting of one pan with drainage holes set inside a second pan, allows excess fat to drain out during cooking. Serve with a generous helping of mashed potatoes.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lb lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup catsup
1/2 cup tomato sauce, plus tomato sauce for serving, optional
Heat the oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot. Sauté until the carrot begins to soften and the onion is almost translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic. Sauté 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool.
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Whisk eggs, salt, pepper, thyme, parsley, Worcestershire sauce and catsup in medium bowl to blend. Combine the beef, bread crumbs and cooled vegetable mixture in a large bowl. Add the egg mixture. Using your hands, mix just until blended. Do not overmix or the loaf will be too compact and dry.
Gently pat the meat mixture into the prepared pan. Pour the tomato sauce evenly over the top. Bake until meat begins to shrink from the pan sides and instant meat thermometer inserted into center of loaf registers 150°F, about 1 1/4 hours. Transfer pan to a rack. Cool 10 minutes.
Cut the meat loaf into thick slices. Using a spatula, transfer slices to warmed plates. Serve warm or cold, accompanied with more tomato sauce, if desired.