Hearty, comforting and so easy to make, gluten free spaghetti and meatballs are one of my all-time favourite dinner recipes and after you try this recipe I think they’ll be yours too! We’re talking juicy and full-of-flavour meatballs, perfectly al-dente golden yellow pasta strands and a rich, but couldn’t-be-simpler-to-make, tomato sauce. All topped with generous gratings of parmesan cheese and fresh, bright green basil leaves. If you don’t have tomato splatters all over your front once you’ve finished eating spaghetti and meatballs, were you really enjoying it?
I read Stanley Tucci’s (brilliant) Taste: My Life Through Food over the new year and in it, he talks about how meatballs should be almost half bread and half meat. While this recipe doesn’t go THAT far, it does include a few slices of gluten free bread for binding (from experience any bread you’ve got on hand will do the trick), along with creamy, tangy ricotta and an egg. To make this recipe work for a lower FODMAP diet, I’ve reduced the amount of tomatoes used and added in more stock to the sauce. As a result, this tomato sauce is a bit lighter than you might expect, which actually works wonderfully with the richer, juicier, flavour-packed meatballs.
To make the meatballs, you simply add all of the ingredients into a large bowl and mix. They’re wonderfully simple. Start with a fork to bring everything together and then get in there with your hands. The only thing you need to be mindful of is not overworking the meat and mixture, or your meatballs can get tough. I find that bringing everything together with a fork first and then rolling small golf ball sized meatballs with my hands is the best way to do that. Have a lightly oiled tray or container next to you ready to place the meatballs down and save any back and forth across the kitchen.
This recipe works just as well on a chilled weeknight as it does on a fun date night or as a dinner party dish to serve to friends on a weekend – that’s the delicious power of spaghetti and meatballs! It’s easy to double up on ingredients and you can prep ahead of time. Make the meatballs a few hours in advance and keep them in the fridge and you can do the same with the tomato sauce. Once part-cooked, bring the tomato sauce down to room temp and then store in the fridge for later. Rewarm the tomato sauce on the hob while you fry the meatballs and then once the meatballs are nestled within, cook your pasta. Sorted!
Gluten free bread – I prefer using fresh or slightly stale gluten free bread, rather than dried gluten free breadcrumbs in this recipe. The latter is more expensive, not something I always have on hand and I actually think fresh works best! 2 slices blitzed into crumbs is perfect and I’ve used lots of different types of bread when making this recipe and all have worked a treat
Egg – 1 medium free-range egg adds richness to these gluten free meatballs and helps to bind the mixture together so that they don’t fall apart in the pan
Ricotta – Since adding ricotta into my meatball recipe I am fully converted. This recipe doesn’t call for much, but just 50g adds such a delicious richness, tangyness and creaminess
Ground beef mince – I like to use at least 10% fat beef mince when making a recipe such a meatballs. As the star of the show, use the best quality mince you can afford for the best flavour and texture
Parsley, basil, fennel, oregano and chilli – Fresh and dried herbs and chillies make these gluten free meatballs sing. Be generous with the fresh herbs especially. There’s also fennel in the tomato sauce instead of usual onion, which is better suited for those of us with sensitive tums and just as delicious
Salt – Salt brings out the flavour of all ingredients – if you’ve ever had a meal that was bland or a bit meh, it was probably because there wasn’t the right amount of salt in it. This article came into my inbox the other day and explains the importance and power of salt so beautifully
Black pepper – You can really generous with the black pepper here, the meatballs are all the better for it. Always freshly ground
Garlic infused oil – Garlic infused oil is such a great way to add that garlic flavour without FODMAPS for those that need to avoid, but you can sub in regular olive oil also
Plum tomatoes – Sweet, rich, juicy plum tomatoes are the base of the sauce. I would always pick plum over chopped where possible, as they tend to be less processed, but both work. Break up the plum tomatoes with the back of your spoon when in the pan – and I always like to swill out the can with a little bit of cold water, so you don’t miss any of that juice
Beef stock – A good quality stock can boost the flavour of a sauce so much. If you’re making this recipe low FODMAP and haven’t got any homemade on hand, know that Bay’s Kitchen do concentrated stocks and FODMarket sell Massel 7’s onion and garlic free stock cubes – always useful in the cupbboard!
Sugar and red wine vinegar – Adding a pinch and splash of these into your tomato sauce will make it so much better and totally elevate it into something silky and punchy and delicious
Gluten free spaghetti – By all means, please feel free to make your own spaghetti, but on this occasion, I’ll be reaching for my favourite dried variety
Parmesan cheese – Do I need to explain??
For the gluten free meatballs:
2 thick slices gluten free bread, blitzed into crumbs
1 medium free-range egg, whisked
500g ground beef mince, at least 10% fat
Small bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Generous few grinds of black pepper
2 tablespoons garlic-infused oil
For the tomato sauce:
2 tablespoons garlic-infused oil
1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped (max 190g for FODMAP)
1/2 teaspoon crushed chilli flakes
1 small bunch basil
1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes
400ml low FODMAP beef stock, hot
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
For the spaghetti and to serve:
400g dried gluten-free spaghetti
Chunk parmesan cheese
Small bunch of basil leaves
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Images by Jenni Helin.