For quick marinara
For the sauce:
- In a large heavy saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, celery, and shallot. Sauté until the celery softens, about 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, and dried crushed pepper.Bring to simmer, stirring occasionally. Adjust heat to medium-low or low and continue to simmer gently until the sauce thickens slightly and is reduced to about 3 cups, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Mix in basil, salt, and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Remove bay leaves before using.)
For the meatloaf:
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- In a large bowl, stir eggs, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to blend. Mix in 2/3 cup marinara sauce, chopped basil, Parmesan cheese, onion, and panko. Add beef and blend well.
- Mound meatloaf mixture on a large rimmed baking sheet; press out to 12x8-inch rectangle (about 1 inch thick). Spread ½ cup sauce thinly over the top. Bake the meatloaf until cooked through and instant read thermometer registers 160°F, 25 to 30 minutes (there will be lots of juices and drippings on sheet around meatloaf).
- Cut the meatloaf into eight 4-inch squares and separate the squares slightly. On each, square spread 2 generous tablespoons sauce, leaving a border of meat visible. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of mozzarella cheese in center of the sauce.
- Return meatloaf to oven. Bake until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes. Transfer meatloaf squares to plates. Spoon additional sauce alongside; garnish with basil sprig.