Friday, October 9, 2009

Mega Mighty Meatballs (yep, they’re gluten free, too!)

Hmmm, I say, curiously tapping my fingers against my chin. The inquisitive recesses of my brain are questioning who gets credit for being the first daring cook to grab a scoopful of ground meat, mix it with seasoning stuff, roll it into a ball, and cook it. Was this done on purpose? Was it an accident? Could this culinary genius in actuality be a prehistoric caveman sitting around the campfire with a kabob gone wrong experiment? That’s such a funny word – prehistoric. Do we all not agree that the word history inherently implies the past? Meaning, you know, uh, everything prior to the present? History is history. Why do we need the “pre” part?

Anywhooo, who ever thought this up, whether it be a nomad in the dessert craving a hot meal or a grey haired grandma being frugal, meatball recipes have found their way into just about every cuisine. I’ve even seen vegetarian “meatballs.” (Um, that’s just wrong. They need to come up with a new name, ya know?)Italians are known for their meatballs. My grandma's, for example, were spectacularly stellar. We’re talkin’ serious meatball magic, folks. Grandma’s version boasted gloriously large rounds of beef that were just shy of tennis ball size. They were always poached in tomato sauce, never browned in a skillet or oven, and always served mounded high in a bowl. Meatballs were never ON the pasta. The steaming serving bowls could be next to each other, but never mixed. In fact, most meat and pasta were served separately, the exception being if a meat sauce was prepared.

My kids and husband love meatballs. Littlest girl, though, cannot eat traditional meatballs that contain bread crumbs. I’ve come up with many gluten free substitutions for the crumb, and they work great, but this time I borrowed a brilliant idea put forth by Marjie of Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet.

When Marjie makes meatballs for a crowd, actually she makes everything for a crowd, but in terms of meatballs, when she’s preparing them, she uses no filler at all. They are MEATballs, afterall.

These are so easy to prepare. One word of caution: since no filler is used, you need more meat than you are used to using to prepare the same amount of meatballs. I used just under 3 lbs of ground chuck, and that made 24 good sized meatballs. You’ll note I didn’t add fresh onion or garlic to these puppies. It’s a texture issue with my clan, so I left them out and used onion salt in its stead.Onward I plunged, rolling ball after ball of the mainly singular ingredient. Let’s take a vote. How many of you get the “icks” when touching raw ground meat? Sometimes touching raw meat bugs me, and sometimes it doesn’t. It didn’t this time. I’ve made them twice now and they are a hit! This latest time I merged Marjie’s meat idea along with grandma’s process of poaching them in sauce. The result? Well, see for yourself!

Mega Mighty Meatballs (makes giant meatballs)

Poaching Liquid:
2 quarts spaghetti sauce
1 quart water

Meatballs: (Use your favorite seasonings; this works for my bunch)
3 lbs ground beef (I’m sure turkey would work fine)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon Lawry’s Season Salt
1 teaspoon onion salt or powder, your choice
Sea Salt to taste
Ground Black Pepper

Bring 2 quarts of spaghetti sauce and 1 quart of water to a boil in a large stock pot. Meanwhile, combine all meatball ingredients trying to not overhandle the meat (that makes for a dense meatball). Take about 3 tablespoons of the meat mixture, and roll into a ball. Repeat until all the meat is used. Carefully place the meatballs, one by one, into the boiling sauce. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the meatballs are done. Meatballs can be served with pasta, as a hoagie filling, as a main dish, etc.I served mine with Monterey Jack Polenta. Mmm, mmm, good.See how juicy they are?That is the correct term, right?These guys are very beefy flavored. Mmm ... beef.I don’t know who first came up with the meatball concept, but I’m eternally thankful to them. And to Marjie, too, for the great idea. I think next time I’ll roll them smaller and make sweet and sour meatballs. And because these rolly rounds contain no breadcrumbs, they are gluten free! Yippee!

What’s your favorite meatball recipe?


Lynda said...

Mama Mia, those are tasty looking meatballs! My family LOVES meatballs in sauce and they request them quite often. I love your version and the photos alone have me drooling!

Robynn's Ravings said...

Mmmmmmmm. Don't I ALWAYS say that when I come here? I'm cooking a soup RIGHT NOW that's a vegetarian variety. Mind you, we're all about meat here but it looked so GOOD. I'll let you know. And I'm adding this recipe to my Paula file. You're gonna need to write a cookbook, like PW!

Mickle in NZ said...

Wow, these look extra good. I've only recently started cooking meatballs in sauce, and what a difference.

Another gluten-free variation for you is to add some uncooked rice into the meatball mix.The rice cooks in the sauce. Here meatballs made this way are known Hedgehogs!

Mickle in NZ said...

P.S. - Paula, would you please share your Monteray Jack Polenta recipe. It looks as scrummy as the glorious meatballs and sauce.

Many, many thanks in advance, Michelle and a super purry Zebbycat.

Anonymous said...

Yuuummmmm! I could use a batch of those on this cold wintery day too!

Grace said...

saucy and filler-free. win! and i must say, your pictures are particularly clear and amazing--bravo!

Cheryl said...

First off, holy cow, meatballs on polenta, never heard of it but I WANT it! I will be making this next week fa sure thanks for sharing!

Bellini Valli said...

Where's my fork?

Marjie said...

Oh, Paula, they're perfect! I'm so glad my dearly beloved's "Breadcrumbs are icky!" fixation has helped you get back to meatballs for your baby!

My mother used to make Hedgehogs as Michelle in NZ suggested, but she called them porcupines, and served them in brown gravy. I never liked them much. I like my meat to taste like MEAT! (And I'm with you wondering what's up with vegetarian "meatballs"!)

Have a wonderful weekend!

Deborah said...

Can I tell you how much I wish I had these for dinner right now????

The Blonde Duck said...

Oh mama mia. These look better than the ones I make!

The Blonde Duck said...

Paula, my darling Invisible Friend, I need your help.

My in-laws and newly gluten free (allergic) SIL are coming for Halloween. I'd like to fix some breakfast breads for them to munch on while I'm at work...any tips?

Cathy said...

Fantastic, Paula. And I love that you served these glorious balls with polenta instead of pasta. You've gotten my mouth watering and its just 6:00 in the morning.

noble pig said...

Awesome. And yes I hate roliing raw meat into balls and then trying to wash off the residual fat left on my hands. Gag, right. So glad these worked for you!

Pam said...

Paula, are you reading my mind? Just yesterday I was thinking how long it had been since I had meatballs.

Lisa said...

Love meatballs too. And who needs glueten in them anyway.

Pam said...

The meatballs look mighty tasty and the polenta sounds good too.

Manggy said...

Well done, Paula- Asian meatballs do not use breadcrumbs, either :) They look fantastic!
Anyway, it's pre-historic because history refers to the time when people started documenting current events (you know, writing, hieroglyphics, oral tradition, whatever) :)

Mickle in NZ said...

Hedgehogs/porcuppines in brown sauce? No, no, just in a fully, tomatoey flavoursome sauce, just a little rice.

Great without for most. Great within for those with dodgy digestive innards - you must do a full-on scrummy flavoursome and delicious sauce so the sauce has the full on flavour right from when the spikey meatball go in for their gentle simmer.

I kone I'm raving too much, I understand the flavourless versions are not a nice experience, for those of us where fiber is the enemy that really good meaty meatball spiked with plain rice in a full on sauce is a delight and a foodie relief.

Paula, sincere apologies, I can be "over-the-top" over what I can eat at times, it is so seldom recognised.

Okay, I'll snuggle back into my wee home down under, pull my head in and watch my wee veggie (non- fibreous types) seedlings grow. Zebby sends gentle snores, xxxxxx

DayPhoto said...

I made your beef last night! YUMMM!

Roynn is right....publish a cookbook and we will buy it!


Mediterranean kiwi said...

mega meatballs - i need to make these, they look fantastic

The Blonde Duck said...

I'm still loving these!

Queen B. said...


Paula said...

Awww, you guys are so nice to me!

Lynda: Thanks, they tasted as good as they looked!

Robynn: Hope the tomatoes turned out for you! You're sweet to mention a cookbook!

Mickle: I've had those! We called them porcupines! They kind of remind me of the yumming flavors found in stuffed peppers! I'll get you the polenta recipe!

Linda: These would warm you up after being out working with Bossman and the beasties!

Grace: Thanks! One day I'll learn how to use all the features on my camera. I mostly just point and shoot!

Cheryl: I'm forever eating polenta. I'll pair it with just about anything!

Bellini: I'll set up an entire place setting for you!

Marjie: Your meat idea has become a mainstay now! Now if only we could have a meal together!

Deborah: I could eat meatballs anytime anyday!

Duckie: You are so sweet! I made your taco's you know ... yum! I sent you an email re: the gluten free stuff! :-)

Cathy: You are a morning person, aren't you! Hmm ... I'd be willing to have this for breakfast!

Noble Pig: I once watched a cooking show where the chef, and he was a chef, wore gloves because he can't stand the mess on his hands!

Pam: I wish I could read minds! Imagine what fun I could have with that!

Lisa: I don't miss the filler!

Pam: They were soo good!

Mark: Ah, I see you paid attention in school! I love Asian meatballs ... all varieties!

Linda: You made something of mine? Ah, you made my day! Thanks!

Maria: They were pretty darn fantastic if I do say so myself!

Queen B: Thanks for stopping by!

Zupan's Markets said...

Yet another shining example to prove keeping things simple with quality ingredients almost always ends up with a slam-dunk at the dinner table. The poaching technique is a really interesting way to keep even more of those succulent juices in the meatball. We're excited to try it!

Lo said...

Mmm. Meatballs... or "meatbulbs" as we call them at our house. I've been having a craving for these for weeks now -- and, needless to say, your post isn't helping.

Definitely gonna take a second look at this recipe, as I haven't found a meatball recipe that really blows me away... yet :)