Gluten-Free with PMD: Spaghetti and Meatballs


Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Going gluten-free is generally not a choice, but a decision one makes with regards to their own well-being. I have been told recently by mostly reliable sources like US Weekly and People that it has become fashionable to deprive yourself of gluten – that is, wheat, rye, and barley.

This is a travesty, because, make no mistake, wheat is delicious. Pizza, pasta, heaping helpings of sourdough bread smothered in olive oil and fresh cracked pepper…  These are a few of my favorite things. But alas! I am stricken with a condition known as Celiac’s Disease. I live a gluten-free lifestyle to the utmost. I hardly even notice it sometimes.

That is a good thing. In this blog, I will be offering gluten-free recipes, tips, and decent writing. All free of charge! So, other gluten-free pals and food lovers alike, I offer you Not your Grandma’s Gluten-free Spaghetti and Bison Meatballs.

This is a simple recipe, but such an important one. On a cold night sometimes all you want is a big, unpretentious plate of pasta bathed in a hearty sauce.

You will need:

  • One 16 ounce bag of Tinkyada Pasta Joy brown rice pasta – spaghetti or fettuccini will do nicely
  • A pound or so of ground bison meat, depending on intended yield
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic
  • One large minced onion
  • Two large tomatoes
  • One can of tomato sauce or crushed whole tomatoes
  • Two pieces of gluten free bread (rice bread or any other gluten free bread will do)
  • One egg
  • Good parmesan cheese
  • Fresh herbs

Gluten-free spaghetti sauce.First set your oven to 365 F, and set a medium Pyrex dish close to your chopping station. (Best to have one with a lid, but foil can be substituted.)

In a medium bowl, combine cracked egg, toasted and crumbled bread, finely chopped garlic, half of the minced onion, five healthy shakes of salt, ten turns of cracked pepper, a shot of extra virgin olive oil, roughly chopped herbs (I like fresh oregano and even a few leaves of sage for this dish; basil tends to get lost in the meatballs, but is suitable for garnish at the end), and of course, the bison meat. With clean hands, combine all ingredients in the bowl thoroughly, clenching your fists so that the meat is blended evenly with the other components.

Next, lightly coat the glass cooking dish with olive oil and the other half of the onions. Form the meat mixture into similarly-sized balls, about two inches in diameter or the size of a smallish lime. Line the bottom of the dish with all the meatballs. Cover the meatballs with your tomato sauce. It is not necessary to create a marinara, as the meatballs will flavor the sauce during cooking. The meatballs should be just covered in sauce. Finish with the fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped, and a few glugs of your favorite hot sauce. Cover the dish and move to the hot oven. The slower and longer these cook, the better. They will be done in an hour or so, but they’re even better after at least three hours.

Gluten-Free Spagetti and MeatballsNow, a word about properly cooking gluten-free pasta: IT IS NOT EASY.

There is about a 30-second window of optimum doneness, where with traditional pasta you may have a two minute or longer window to remove from water. When you are nearly ready to eat, drop your pasta into salted, boiling water stirring often during the first few minutes of cooking.

After eight or so minutes, begin sampling the pasta every thirty seconds to check for a nice al dente. When the pasta seems totally pliable, but not starchy tasting, remove immediately to a strainer set within your sink and shock the pasta in lukewarm water. This stops the pasta from over-cooking and removes the excess starch that will tend to make the pasta stick together. At this point, I hit the strainer full of pasta with a few shakes of olive oil.

Remove the meatballs from the oven. The fresh tomatoes should be cooked down and barely recognizable, and your house should smell like Italy. Plate up portions of pasta, meatballs, and sauce. Garnish with freshly grated cheese and a few torn pieces of fresh basil or oregano. I promise, if done correctly, you and your loved ones will swear you are eating the real thing.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Be sure to check back for weekly gluten-free recipes.

Matt Devlin Fish It Missoula BioMatt Devlin is a fishing guide in Missoula MT.  He enjoys dry flies, “floating with the bros”, attempting to get his labradoodle to chase tennis balls, and writing.