This recipe is for those gluten-free and egg-free fans out there. Yes! You can absolutely have meatballs – and just as good as the standard ones – that adapt to your needs. Just to be clear though, I’m not gluten or dairy intolerant, but I do enjoy testing my cooking abilities and experimenting new ways of cooking and swapping ingredients.
I actually have a story, that even though isn’t too much fun, might be the root of why I like to always consider my guests’ special dietary needs and preferences. Back when I was studying, I was living in a dorm just outside Barcelona close to my university. My roommate and I would alternate cooking for each other, and that evening I was on duty. I wanted to make something special, since we were celebrating a month living together, and I chose a blue cheese and walnut sauce to go with the gnocchi. Little did I know, she was allergic to nuts. The emergency was attended to quickly and she recovered that same night after just a few hours, to my relief. But I can’t tell you how I panicked when her neck and face started going red and splotchy and she started scratching, while asking me in a high pitched voice if the meal had any nuts in it. That was more than 10 years ago, and I’ve luckily learned from that experience, which is why I always ask if anyone I’m cooking for has any allergies or intolerances. Better to be safe than sorry!
This is what you’ll need for around 15 medium sized meatballs with yummie tomato sauce:
- 500g mince meat
- salt and pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 onion, thinly chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped into small squares
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- some olive oil
- 5 big tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- fresh basil
- In a big bowl, press the mince thoroughly with a fork, as if you were mashing potatoes. Do this for a good few minutes. The idea is to make the meat elastic, as I read once that this releases the protein and makes it pliable without the need for egg or bread crumbs. Do not worry if you see the meat changing colour in some places, this is normal.
- Add the garlic powder, salt and pepper and Worcestershire sauce, and mix well. Use your hands if you like.
- Cut the cheese in small squares.
- From little balls of meat and stuff them with the cheese, let sit for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.
- While it sits, you can start making the tomato sauce. Start by heating a pan with some olive oil.
- Set to medium, and once hot, throw in the chopped onion and carrot. Allow to brown for a few minutes.
- To make the tomatoes easy to peel, you can sit them in boiled water (not on the stove) for 2-3 minutes. The skin should come off if you peel it with your fingers.
- Once the tomatoes are peeled and chopped, throw them together with the onion and carrot and cook on low until they start to disintegrate. Add the tomato paste and the basil leaves at this point.
- Cook until it starts to bubble. You can now turn the heat off and reserve.
- Heat oven to 175°C. Put some olive oil in an oven safe dish and put the meatballs in. Make sure they are separated so they won’t stick together.
- Cook for about 10 minutes and flip, and cook for another 8 minutes.
- Finally add the tomato sauce and allow to bubble for another 10 minutes. Throw in some more basil leaves before serving. Voilà!
- Oregano works very well with meatballs too.
- If you don’t want to stuff the meatballs, an alternative is to put some grated cheese on top after you add the tomato sauce on step 12. Of course, you can also skip the cheese altogether for a dairy free recipe.