Pasta with Meatballs: Gluten & Dairy Free

by Donna Hann on 12/01/2012

Brown rice pasta has become quite a staple in our house since we went gluten free.  My kids absolutely love it.  We probably enjoy pasta at least once a week, and typically on nights when we’re shorter on time.  To give us a change of pace from basic pasta with sauce, I reinvented my favorite meatball recipe, which contained fresh bread and parmesan cheese, to adhere to our gluten and dairy free needs.  My original recipe created a paste using torn up pieces of white bread soaked in milk (called a panade) to create tenderness.  In this gluten and dairy free reincarnation, I make fresh bread crumbs in the food processor from the end pieces and scraps of gluten free bread that I keep frozen in a recycled bread bag until I need them.  These meatballs are great over pasta, but are equally great wrapped inside a piece of gluten free bread or sliced in half and tucked into a toasted gluten free french loaf and enjoyed as a meatball sandwich.

Traditionally, meatballs are browned in a skillet before simmering in pasta sauce.  However, when I double or triple this recipe to make a large batch of meatballs (for the freezer) I find browning the meatballs in the oven on a rack set over a foil lined pan works great and speeds up the process significantly.

Why not whip up a batch of these meatballs this weekend to enjoy next week when you are short on time?  I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Pasta with Meatballs
  • 1 cup fresh gluten free bread crumbs
  • ½ cup unsweetened, unflavored rice milk or milk of your choice
  • ¾ pound Certified Angus Beef (80% lean) ground beef
  • ¼ pound ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for pasta cooking water
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 4-6 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 pound gluten free pasta
  1. Place breadcrumbs in a large bowl and pour rice milk over to soak. Using a fork, smash the bread crumbs into the milk to create a smooth paste.
  2. Add the beef, pork, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, salt and pepper to the mashed bread mixture. Using a fork or your fingers, gently mix until evenly combined.
  3. Form the mixture into 1½ inch round meatballs (about 15). If the mixture seems too loose to allow the meatball to stick together, add a few more tablespoons breadcrumbs.
  4. Pour oil into a large 12" skillet until it measures a depth of ¼". Heat over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the meatballs, without crowding, and cook until nicely browned on all sides. (Alternatively, to brown a larger batch of meatballs, place a wire rack that has been coated with cooking spray on a foil lined sheet pan. Cook meatballs on rack in the oven at 375 degrees, turning occasionally until browned on all sides, about 15 minutes.)
  5. Transfer meatballs to a paper towel lined plate. Discard any remaining oil left in the skillet.
  6. Place the skillet with the browned meatball bits back on the heat and add the tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits as you stir. Return the meatballs to the skillet and reduce the heat to low. Simmer meatballs for 15 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160 degrees when placed in the middle of the meatballs.
  7. While meatballs are simmering, bring 6 quarts of water to boil in a large pot for the pasta.
  8. Once the water begins to boil, add a generous tablespoon kosher salt followed by pasta. Stir regularly to prevent sticking. Cook according to package directions. Drain.
  9. Divide the pasta between individual serving bowls. Top with sauce and several meatballs.


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