Gluten-Free Girl’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

by in Gluten-Free, April 1, 2011

spaghetti and meatballs

Everyone has a favorite way of making meatballs. Some will swear by the stale bread soaked in milk method taught by Sicilian grandmothers. Others insist meatballs should have only meat and herbs, perhaps one egg. So by no means is ours the only way to make meatballs.

However, we love these meatballs. The fact that they’re gluten-free really doesn’t matter. (You can buy gluten-free breadcrumbs, or you could make your own with the gluten-free bread of your choice. Here’s a video demonstrating how.)

Here are a few things we’d love to share for perfect meatballs:

Be sure to not overmix the meats and ingredients when you are combining them. Too much mixing makes meatballs dense and tough. You don’t want that.

There might be a few ingredients here that surprise you. Worcestershire sauce gives a depth of flavor to the meatballs that they might not have otherwise. (Lea and Perrin’s is gluten-free.) We sometimes use a bit of gluten-free fish sauce here for the same reason. Nutmeg is a savory ingredient used often in Italian cuisine. Just a small pinch rounds out all the other flavors. And lemon? You might not expect that one, but just a little lemon juice lends brightness to what might otherwise be a dark taste.

Gluten-Free Meatballs
Of course, this is only a template for you to build your own meatballs. Make these once and experiment. Oh, and here’s a hint: This recipe also makes a mighty meatloaf.
Yield: 4 Servings

1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
2 large eggs
1/2 cup gluten-free finely ground breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 teaspoons fine-chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fine-chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
1 teaspoon each kosher salt and cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil

Preparing to cook.
Bring the pork, beef, eggs, and mustard to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 450°.

Mixing the meatballs. Put all the ingredients into a large bowl. Mix them together with your hands. Be careful to not overmix — this is not like creaming butter and sugar together. Instead, fold the ingredients over each other, gently, until they are just combined.

Making the taster. Set a large cast-iron skillet (or sauté pan) over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Form a small patty with the meat. Add it to the hot oil. Cook until the patty is firm and browned on both sides, about 2 minutes. Let it rest out of the pan for a moment to cool. Taste. Adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Forming the meatballs. Gently, roll the meat into 2-ounce balls. (These make large meatballs. If you want smaller ones, try 1-ounce meatballs.)

Browning the meatballs. Set the skillet over medium-high heat again. Add the remaining olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs. (You might be able to fit all the meatballs into the pan if it is big enough. If not, don’t scrunch them. Do this in two batches.) Brown the bottoms of the meatballs, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip over the meatballs and slide the skillet into the oven.

Finishing the meatballs. Cook the meatballs until they have reached an internal temperature of 160°. Remove them from the oven.

Serve with your favorite tomato sauce and gluten-free pasta.

Shauna James Ahern blogs about living the (gluten-free) sweet life at Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. Her new cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, is available in bookstores now.

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