Gluten Free Spaghetti and Mushroom Meatballs

gluten free spaghetti and meatballs

Mushroom Meatballs and Tinkyada Spaghetti photo by vsimon

This recipe appeared on the Healthy Eats blog as a guest post. But the post has disappeared, so I’ll recreate it here.

You can sub many things for bread crumbs in meatballs and meat loaf. But my favorite is finely minced mushrooms. They are healthy, low cal, and enhance the meaty flavor.

And if you are into hiding veggies, they will never give you away. No colored specks, they look just like meat.

Meatballs

These mouthwatering meatballs are half meat and half mushrooms. This makes the meatballs so tender, even with the leanest meat. You’ll be sure that many mushrooms won’t mix into the meat, but they will.

You need to be gentle when simmering them in the marinara sauce. Keep the simmer low and don’t disturb them for about 15 minutes. By then the meatballs will be “set” and you can carefully slide a metal spatula under them and turn them.

Marinara

Use your favorite gluten free brand. I like Classico, we also like the Classico jar with measurements on the side. The website says they are not recommended for canning. But we save them and use them in the water bath canner all the time. (This cannot be a recommendation. Do this at your own peril.)

There are many other gluten free kinds of marinara available. Be sure to read the labels. And you can make your own of course.

Gluten Free Spaghetti

There is an explosion of choices now. I counted 8 different brands of spaghetti in the ever-expanding gluten free section of my regular grocery store today.

What you really want to know is:

What is available in my store?

How can I be sure it is gluten free?

Does it taste, look, and behave like “regular” pasta?

How much is it?

Gluten free is such a hot trend now that Bon Appétit did an article on their top three gluten free pasta brands. Two were from Italy, available online, and very pricy. Seven or eight dollars for 8 ounces, without the added shipping costs. That works out to about $15 dollars a pound. For that price, I prefer to treat myself to really good steak instead.

One brand in BA’s top three is Ancient Harvest Supergrain Quinoa Pasta. No spaghetti in the store today, but they did have linguini. Close enough to give it a test (taste) drive. Suggested retail is 2.99 for 8 ounces. A bargain, sold!

When you open the box, there is a surprise inside. It’s yellow, a combo of quinoa and corn flour. The directions say to cook for 6-9 minutes. Six minutes was truly undone. Eight minutes was perfecto. There is a small window to get this right.

Ancient Harvest Quinoa corn spaghetti

Ancient Harvest Supergrain Quinoa Pasta photo by vsimon

My review

Ancient Harvest Supergrain Quinoa Pasta vs. Tinkyada 

Some will like the sunny color of Ancient Harvest, others may think it is just wrong. The flavor and texture are fine. A few of the strands stuck together and didn’t soften as much as the rest, despite stirring during cooking. Nutritionally, this pasta offers more fiber and iron than other gluten free pastas.

Caution

Ancient Harvest Supergrain Pasta comes in two varieties. One is gluten free and one is not- a combo of quinoa and wheat. At first glance, the boxes look nearly the same. My store stocked both in their gluten free section. Oops! And guess which one I grabbed first, bought, and cooked? Double oops! Be sure to thoroughly read the label and buy the gluten free kind.

Tinkyada

My old time favorite gluten free pasta is Tinkyada. It is my standby and is in the meatball picture. For a long time it was the only real contender in gluten free pasta. Readily available, reasonably priced, similar in taste and texture to wheat. Made with brown rice and additional rice bran, it is bit paler, softer, and blander than wheat pasta.

And some folks prefer it to wheat pasta. Families with a few gluten intolerants and some not, easily switch to Tinkyada pasta. Suggested retail is $3.96 for 16 ounces. The best deal yet.

Tinkyada takes longer to cook, about 15 minutes. With a bigger window to get it just right. And since it is rice based, even brown rice, it is lower in fiber than Ancient Harvest pasta. Despite being whole grain, rice is pretty low in fiber. Tinkyada has 2 grams fiber per serving, Ancient Harvest 4 grams.

Tinkyada makes only gluten free pasta. So you do not have to worry about buying glutinous pasta. I am going to stick with Tinkyada.

Gluten Free Spaghetti and Mushroom Meatballs

Yield: 6 servings

Meatballs

1 pound fresh mushrooms

1/3 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons dried onion flakes

1 tsp dry mustard

2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning (or a mix of oregano, basil, and rosemary)

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (1/2 teaspoon if you like it spicy)

1 egg

1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean)

Sauce

24 oz gluten free marinara sauce

Spaghetti

8 oz gluten free spaghetti

Garnish

additional parmesan, optional

Pour marinara sauce in a large sauté pan with a lid. Large enough to hold the meatballs in a single layer. Use two pans if you need to. I like to have the marinara on a low simmer before I shape the meatballs, so I can put them in the sauce as I shape them.

Pulse the mushrooms in a food processor until they are the size of grains of rice. You might have to do this in batches.

In a large bowl, mix up all the meatball ingredients. Your hands work best for this. Shape into 18 meatballs.

Cover and simmer meatballs in sauce for about 15 minutes without disturbing them. Gently turn and cook 10-15 more minutes, or to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Meanwhile cook gluten free spaghetti according to package directions.

Drain spaghetti and place on dinner plate. Top with 3 meatballs and sauce. Garnish with parmesan if desired.

Make ahead

This dish freezes well. I package leftovers in lidded, stackable glass or ceramic containers. I prefer just 1 or 2 servings per container because they thaw and warm faster than larger amounts. Simply pull several containers from the fridge if you need more servings.

Layer spaghetti, then the meatballs, and sauce on top. Cover, date and label each container. Cool thoroughly in the fridge, then freeze. Thaw in the fridge overnight and warm in the microwave for just a few minutes per serving.

Dinner’s ready!

Make Ahead Pesto Polenta Lasagna

pesto-polenta-lasagna

pesto polenta lasagna photo by vsimon

This recipe is from allrecipes.com, submitted by Fiffen. It is a super simple do ahead dish. All it requires is layering purchased ingredients, packaging, and baking.

Sometimes you just need a plop and drop dinner. This one is rich and satisfying, a small serving is filling.  Serve with a green salad and vinaigrette on a meatless Monday.

Simplify your life with make ahead meals

Prep the lasagna and freeze some for later. Layer in small ceramic or glass containers with tight fitting lids. Package just one or two portions per container. This is what personal chefs do for clients everyday.

Proper containers are one of the secrets to successful make ahead meals.

Reusable, stackable containers

We use mostly small Pyrex rectangles that hold 3 1/2 cups. They hold 1-2 portions, have tight fitting lids, and stack well. There is an example of these containers on Amazon.

If you have a Wal-Mart nearby, you can buy these small rectangles individually, no need to buy an assortment. Wal-Mart is not my favorite store, but we have not found this size in singles anywhere else.

The lasagna in the photo is made in a CorningWare container. This style makes a nice presentation, oven to plate. Make sure to get ones with tight fitting lids, not the loose glass lids.

Small containers make thawing and heating quicker. Pull your dish from the freezer and thaw overnight in the fridge. Meals can be refrigerated for several days. So it isn’t critical if you need to change your dinner plans.

Gluten free ingredients

I use Frieda’s prepared polenta. It comes in many flavors, and several work here. I like  mushroom and onion, basil and garlic, even dried tomato and garlic. I get whatever the store has. Look for it in the refrigerated produce section.

Classico marinara is the brand I by. All flavors are gluten free. I usually buy the roasted garlic flavor because it is lower in calories and sodium than the other flavors. But choose what you like.

Roland Pesto is my purchased pesto of choice. It is smooth, flavorful, and deep green. Classico pesto is leafy and unappealingly brownish. 🙁

Shredded cheese makes prepping this recipe quick. I like Sargento brand 6 Cheese Italian for the flavor. It is a handy mix of mozzarella, smoked provolone, asiago, romano, parmesan and fontina cheeses. Simple shredded mozzarella works too.

Sometimes you will see warnings on the internet that shredded cheese may be dusted with wheat flour to prevent clumping. Most often, it is not. And if it is, wheat must be printed on the label.

Pesto Polenta Lasagna

allrecipes.com submitted by fiffen

serves 8 metric measures
2 -8 oz tubes of prepared polenta total 500 gm
3 cups of marinara sauce 720 gm
1/2 cup pesto 120 ml
1/2 cup pine nuts 70 gm
2 cups shredded cheese (8 oz) 225 gm

Cut polenta into 1/2” slices.

Put a tablespoon or two of marinara on the bottom of an oven safe baking dish, or several small dishes.

Layer half of the polenta slices, marinara sauce, pesto, pine nuts and cheese.

Repeat layers.

Bake right away, refrigerate or freeze for later.

Bake it

Thaw overnight if previously frozen.

Remove any plastic lids.

If it is in one or two portion containers, bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes.

In a 9×13” pan? Cover with foil and bake for about an hour. 

Microwave it

Remove any plastic lids. The manufacturers say the lids are microwave safe, but it makes me uneasy. I don’t like cooked plastic, so I take the lids off.

Microwave one or two portions for 10 to 15 minutes.

I don’t even try to microwave a big pan of lasagna. The pan would keep hitting the sides of my microwave. And the turntable scrapes against the bottom of the pan. That is really annoying.

Enticing Embellishments

Sauté 8-16 ounces of slice mushrooms and add to the layers.

Sauté 16 ounces of fresh spinach and add to the layers.

Do both. 🙂

What would you like to make ahead?

Enter timtana flour giveaway

Don’t miss out on a chance to win whole-grain gluten free timtana flour. Simply leave a comment by January 6, 2009. Three winners will be announced January 7, 2009.