This past weekend my younger daughter turned 3 years old. She requested her favorite dish: spaghetti! For her that means a plate of plain spaghetti with Parmesan cheese. For the rest of us, it meant the classic spaghetti and meatballs.
About 15 years ago, someone in my family stumbled across a little Italian cookbook that has turned out to have some of the best recipes ever in it. It was so loved, that my mother bought nearly every good friend and family member a copy.
I have made more than a dozen recipes from this cookbook, and each one has been superb.
I decided to use the meatball recipe from this now out-of-print cookbook, and modify it to be free of both gluten and casein.
Because this was for a party with other guests besides just my immediate family, I was a bit nervous about how the meatballs would taste with the modifications. I'm happy to say they turned out delicious and were scarfed up right away.
To compensate for omitting the Parmesan cheese in the original recipe, I mixed Italian sausage with the ground chuck. The Italian sausage added extra flavor and "covered" for the missing Parmesan cheese.
For the gluten free bread crumbs, I used two-day-old gluten free bread that I ran through the food processor to make bread crumbs. I think it would be fine to use regular GF bread without making bread crumbs though.
Below is the original recipe and my GFCF modifications are in parentheses.
Spaghetti and Meatballs (serves 6-8)
1 1/2 cups torn crustless Italian bread (gluten free bread crumbs)
1/4 cup milk (rice milk)
1 1/2 lbs ground chuck (50% GFCF Italian Sausage)
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese (omit)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup water
2 tsp oregano
In a large bowl, combine bread and milk. Let stand 5 minutes to soften bread. Add meat, eggs, 3 Tbsp parsley, Parmesan cheese (or not if making dairy free), half the garlic, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Blend to mix well (I used my hands). Form into 2-inch meatballs.
In large Dutch oven, heat remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until softened. Add remaining garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Add tomatoes, wine, water and remaining salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and add meatballs. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 45 minutes. (The longer this simmers, the better. 45 minutes is the minimum.)
Before serving, add oregano and remaining parsley to sauce. Serve over spaghetti.
Unfortunately it was a little chaotic trying to pull all this together for a dinner party of 10 people, so I did not take any pictures of the final product. And to give you an idea of how good it was: there weren't any leftovers for me to take a picture of either!