This is no ordinary Halloween recipe, but this special meatloaf is sure to bring smiles (or screams) to those who eat it!
Emily told me she thought she was forever done with subway rats when she moved out of New York City. Little did she know I had an idea up my sleeve for her and her kids.
This idea traces back five or so Halloweens, when I shared it with my sister-in-law, Melissa (mom of Evie and Grace), who does Halloween better than anyone I know. Several days later, she texted photos of their eye-popping dinner.
With a simple package of meatloaf mix and odds and ends from her crisper drawer, she had crafted the most impressive mini meatloaves that looked undeniably like rats. They were too fun to be gross, and were equally loved by a gathering of kids and adults.
The Halloween-themed meal has become a seasonal staple in their house, and I mentioned it to Emily because I thought her kids might enjoy it too.
She wasn’t quite sure, but she brought it up one day, and her kids were excited to decorate them–once she convinced them they wouldn’t actually be eating rat!
With our mutual love of holiday fun, and knowing that our readers often appreciate a visit to the silly side, we decided these tasty little rats (who would have thought I’d ever type that?) deserved a spot on the blog.
Though they will taste delicious regardless, the decorations are what turn these meatloaves into a work of art. The key parts are ears (carrots, potatoes, or almond slices all work well), eyes (peas or olives are nice), and whiskers (broken up spaghetti noodles are perfect).
Of course, a rat wouldn’t be complete without a squiggly tail, and red pepper, roasted or regular, does the job quite nicely. Finally, you can decorate as gory as you like, with extra red sauce such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, or even marinara.
24 uncooked spaghetti noodles (16 of the noodles broken into thirds), for the whiskers and tail*
1 carrot or small potato, thinly sliced, for the ears (could use sliced almonds)
12-16 frozen peas, for the eyes
3-4 black olives, sliced in half, for the nose
*Optional for tail: Long strips of roasted red pepper or regular red bell pepper
Preheat the oven to 375℉. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet or baking dish with foil (lightly spray the foil so loaves don’t stick) or parchment paper.
Mix the glaze ingredients and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the milk and eggs. Stir in the onions, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Add the meatloaf mix. Thoroughly combine the ingredients, but avoid over mixing. (I find this easiest to do with my clean hands.)
At this point, divide the mix into 6-8 balls, and then shape into rats! Make one side a tip (the nose) and flatten out the back side. Place on the baking sheet.
Brush the glaze mixture over the top and sides of the uncooked meatloaf. (We don’t put it where the face will be.)
Place a whole spaghetti noodle or strip of red pepper into the backside for the tail. If using potatoes for the ears, cut thin round slices and stick into the “head” where the ears would be, curving them slightly as in the photo.
Bake the meatloaf until the internal temperature reaches 160℉, about 30-35 minutes.
As the loaves are finishing in the oven, place the peas and carrots, if using, in a small bowl with a tablespoon of water. Microwave until heated through and slightly softened, about 30-60 seconds.
Decorate using carrots (as an option to the potatoes) for ears, peas or olives for eyes, olives or a dot of ketchup for the nose, and 3 broken spaghetti noodles on each side of the face for whiskers. (Refer to photos for various looks.)
Serve with extra ketchup, barbecue sauce, glaze, or even marinara sauce, as desired, over rice, pasta, or with a side of potatoes and/or vegetable of choice.