April – Gluten Free Italian Meatballs

April – Gluten Free Italian Meatballs

There must be a thousand recipes out there for meatballs. This recipe is a little different. I was intrigued and inspired by an article in the NY Times for Spicy Meatballs with Chickpeas by David Tanis. I have a couple of his cookbooks and admire his simplicity. There is no bread in his meatball mix, he uses raw (yes, raw) arborio or white rice as a binder, so it’s gluten free.

The original recipe calls for ground lamb, which was not in my freezer, and North African seasonings. This is when you call on kitchen creativity and courage. I did have a pound package of bulk country sausage and one of ground turkey. It was sounding like my meatballs would be more Italian than North African.

This recipe is endlessly adaptable to whatever ground meat and flavorings you have on hand. The meatballs were juicy and delicious, the rice absorbing the flavors of the sauce and the meat.


Meatballs in Tomato Sauce



  • 1 ½ pounds ground meat (ground beef, pork, turkey, sausage or a combination)
  • ½ cup raw arborio rice or any white rice, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup finely diced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated or minced


  •  Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 quart of jarred Italian pasta sauce, whatever you have in your pantry or freezer
  • A couple of handfuls of chopped kale, chard or baby spinach, chopped (optional)
  • Grated Parmesan for serving
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, combine ground meat, raw rice, salt, red pepper flakes, cumin, Italian seasoning, onion and garlic. Knead mixture well.
  2. Line with a sheet pan or roasting pan with foil for easier cleanup. Coat it lightly with olive oil. With wet hands, form mixture into 1-ounce meatballs and arrange in one layer on pan. Bake, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove and let cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, reheat your pasta sauce.
  4. Carefully add meatballs and adjust heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
  5. Add the kale, chard or spinach and cook until just wilted.
  6. Serve with pasta (gluten free) and sprinkle with parmesan.

Of course you could make your own tomato sauce, that would be even more delicious.

The greens are optional, I was looking for a way to add some vegetables but you could leave them out if it’s the end of the week and your produce drawer is down to the last wilted scallion.

I found an almost empty jar of Kalamata olives and tossed them in, capers would be good, anchovies anyone?

Italian Meatballs

Italian Meatballs

January in the Kitchen – Classic Mince AKA Sauteed Hamburger

January in the Kitchen – Classic Mince AKA Sauteed Hamburger

Mince – Comfort food


Classic Mince or Sauteed Hamburger

This homey dish is a favorite in my household. Ground beef in the U.S. is called hamburger, in other parts of the world it is known as mince.Don’t confuse this dish with a spaghetti sauce or ragu; it is dry not saucy. You should be able to cut a dry path down the middle of your skillet with a spoon.



Mince is one of the most pleasing of comfort foods. During cold, wet weather I make it at least every other week. Make it ahead and it tastes even better a day or two later. Leftovers make an excellent Cottage Pie (Shepard’s pie is made with lamb) with the addition of a mashed potato crust.

Shepard's Pie

Cottage Pie

This recipe comes from the British writer Simon Hopkinson. It’s in his book “Second Helpings of Roast Chicken”. He writes that his mince is related to the traditional Scottish savory mince. I typically serve it with mashed potatoes and a salad. I’ve changed his recipe only slightly. This is not fancy fare but “home” cooking at it’s best.

Classic Mince

  • 6 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped medium fine
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped medium fine
  • ½ lb. of mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 lb. of ground beef
  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon, cubed
  • 2 tsp. dried mixed herbs (I use Herbs de Provence)
  • 1 small 14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes (or 4 chopped fresh tomatoes)
  • ¾ cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp. of tomato ketchup
  • 1 tbsp. of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of umami paste or anchovy paste (optional)
  • Salt (kosher) and freshly ground pepper
  1. Melt the butter in a large heavy bottomed skillet on medium high heat.
  2. Brown the onion in the butter until well colored
  3. Add the carrots and mushrooms to the skillet and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the vegetables to a bowl and reserve
  5. Wipe out the skillet and add the oil.
  6. Heat for a minute on medium high heat; add the ground beef and chopped bacon to the skillet. Sauté until golden brown.
  7. Add the mixed herbs and tomato paste, lover the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Add the chopped tomatoes (and their juices), reserved vegetables, water, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and umami paste (if using) to the skillet.
  9. Turn the heat down as low as possible and cook, uncovered, for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

The final product should be rich and thick.

Serve with mashed potatoes or soft polenta.