Moist Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy

The secrets to this meatloaf are fresh, very finely diced vegetables that give it moisture and flavor–and a light touch in mixing together the ingredients. If desired, divide this recipe in half and freeze one before baking to save for another day.

1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 medium red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
4 medium mushrooms, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 extra large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 teaspoon olive oil
For the mushroom gravy:
6 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups beef broth
1 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet, optional
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. Place the carrot, celery, onion, red bell pepper, mushrooms, and garlic in a food processor, and pulse until very finely chopped, almost to a puree.
3. Place the minced vegetables into a large mixing bowl, and mix in Worcestershire sauce, eggs, Italian herbs, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Add the ground chuck and mix gently with a wooden spoon to incorporate vegetables and egg into the meat. Pour in bread crumbs. With your hand, gently mix in the crumbs with your fingertips just until combined, about 1 minute.
4. Use the olive oil to grease a loaf pan and place the meat into the dish. Shape into a loaf.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the loafreads at least 160°. Cooking time will depend on shape and thickness of the meatloaf.
6. Let stand covered 10-15 minutes, then carefully remove the meatloaf to a plate, reserving any drippings. Cover with foil and then a kitchen towel to keep warm while you make the gravy.
7. For the mushroom gravy:
8. In a large saucepan, heat the drippings along with any browned bits from the loaf pan. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened and lightly browned. Move the mushrooms to the edges of the pan and add the tomato paste to the center. Allow the tomato paste to toast for a minute, then stir it into the mushrooms. Sprinkle on the flour, stir it in, and allow to cook for a minute before gradually stirring in the broth. Cook and stir until the gravy thickens. Season with the Kitchen Bouquet, salt, and pepper to taste.