We found the first of these two old-fashioned recipes for football-shaped meat loaves several years ago, and re-created the idea in a slightly more modern version by incorporating a few changes.
The classic recipe from the 50s: Football-shaped meatloaf (1955)
High school and college crowds aren’t the only ones sure to get excited over this wonderful-tasting and novel treat. Costs less than $1.75 for six folks (Italian spaghetti sauce included).
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 cup finely-chopped onions
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup tomato juice
3/4 cup rolled oats or cracker crumbs
Shape like a football. Place on a shallow baking pan. Arrange pimento strips in lacing fashion. Bake about 1 hour at 350 degrees F. Serve on deepish platter, surrounded by Italian spaghetti sauce. Spoon sauce over each helping of meatloaf.
Note: Lawry’s Spaghetti Sauce Mix was used in sauce recipe — in saucepan, blend 1 pkg with 3 cups tomato juice, 2 tbs salad oil, simmer 1/2 hr (stir occasionally).
Our modern-day version of the football meatloaf
The fun of this dish is really all about the shape and decoration, so you can actually make any kind of loaf you like. (If you’re looking for ideas, we have several different retro meatloaf recipes right here!)
For our loaf, I used my family’s usual recipe — two and a half pounds of ground beef, two eggs, a cup and a half of whole oats, two small cans of tomato sauce, various spices, and about 3/4 of an onion.
Rather than making it truly football-shaped in all dimensions, I kept the thickness fairly uniform to try to make sure the whole loaf cooked evenly, and that the catsup didn’t slide off.
Creating the “football”
Of these two classic recipes, one called for the “lacing” to be made from pimentos (so very retro), while the other suggested using spaghetti. Since I was already using onions inside the loaf itself, I thought they might work well as decoration on top.
If you want to use onions as shown here, be sure to cut the decorative parts of the onion first, before you chop up the rest to put in the loaf. I used long, curved slices on either side, and smaller cuts for the lacing.
All prepped and ready to kick things off
Be sure to start with a large pan so your meatloaf has enough room to hold its shape without bumping into the sides.
Normally when I make this for dinner, I usually put only a little catsup on top — but for this football, I decided to run with the theme, and slathered the whole thing with catsup before carefully placing the onions on top.
The finished football meatloaf
Here’s the same loaf about an hour later, after baking it at 350 F for about 50 minutes, and allowing it to rest for another 10.
Lace it all up
Here’s a close-up of the cooked meatloaf, showing the football’s onion lacing detail from the side.
Each slice of the finished loaf was perfectly tender, and as a bonus, already had all the catsup necessary — making it even easier for everyone to enjoy!
Another version: Football loaf recipe (1967)
Published in the San Bernardino County Sun (California) – September 21, 1967
1 package dehydrated onion soup mix
3 eggs, slightly-beaten
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 cup commercial breadcrumbs
3-1/2 pounds ground round steak
Several pieces cooked spaghetti
Combine onion soup mix, eggs, sour cream and parsley. Stir in breadcrumbs. Mix thoroughly the meat and breadcrumb mixture. Form into the shape of a football. Cover closely with (oil to hold the shape and bake at 375 degrees for 1-1/2 hours. Remove the foil and continue to cook for 20 minutes. Press pieces of spaghetti on top of loaf to resemble lacing. Place on warm platter and surround with shoestring potatoes.