Friday, August 22, 2014

Allergen-Free Spaghetti and Meatballs- GF, DF, and EF

I love pasta. LOOOOOVE! Something about a delicious, warm bowl of noodles of ANY kind is the ultimate comfort food for me. Plain old spaghetti and marinara has been my favorite meal since childhood. Then my youngest was born, and we quickly figured out he was allergic to my other comfort food: chocolate. Just a little bit and my poor nursling was in agony for days, so I cut out any and all cocoa from my diet. Fast forward eight months, and we begin introducing solid foods to said little guy by way of Baby-Led Weaning(short description: Wait until the signs of gut maturity are present, then give them whatever appropriately-sized pure, wholesome table foods they want, skipping purees and cereals altogether), and we quickly began to discover he had a whole lot more allergies than chocolate including eggs, chicken, pork, nightshades(tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, peppers), and more. There goes my other comfort food. While it seems simple enough to just feed our now almost-1.5-year-old something else, we prefer to keep allergens off our cookware, grill, dishes, etc, to avoid exposure to allergens that could potentially become anaphylactic. So what's a mama to do? Experiment, experiment, experiment, that's what. 
   Enter the Verano Spiral Vegetable Slicer a sweet friend sent to me. And zucchini. A whole lot of zucchini. On the bright side: It's exponentially healthier than semolina pasta. It's also REALLY tasty. Easy to make right into a sautee pan, and toss with anything- we prefer crushed garlic, sea salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Simple and delicious. 

   Then there's the question of meatball replacement. How does one make a rich, moist meatball that's tender and doesn't fall apart without the bread/breadcrumb and egg ingredients? SURPRISE! Spinach. Not kidding. Two big handfuls of organic baby spinach leaves, chopped fine and sauteed with 5-6 cloves of garlic and a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil will be all the moisture and hold-it-togetherness you will need, not to mention the added nutrients. I know what you're thinking: But what about the texture? That has GOT to be funky. Not so, surprisingly. Even my son with profound oral sensory issues who violently heaves involuntarily at the texture of any greens, cooked or uncooked, LOVES this, and neither he nor his mouth realize he's eating spinach. THAT is proof enough for me. So what's my recipe? I knew you'd ask. ;-) 
Egg-Free Gluten-Free Spinach Meatballs
  • Extra virgin olive oil, or any sautee oil of choice
  • 1/2 pound raw organic baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • 3-6 cloves raw garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs ground grass-fed beef
   Preheat oven to 375. Warm oil in a large sautee pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and spinach, and sautee until spinach is cooked through. Put all ingredients in a large bowl and mix and mix by hand(or however you do it) until all ingredients are uniformly incorporated. 
Shape mixture into golf ball-size meatballs and place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 375, or until meatballs are just cooked through. (It's okay if some or all are just a smidge pink in the center still. There are no eggs or other ingredients to worry about being cooked completely, and if you over-cook they will start to get tough.) Yields approximately 36 medium meatballs.
   We use these for meatball sandwiches, with pasta, and really just as a main protein dish with any sides, but for my allergen-free Italian craving, I make them with the zucchini spaghetti above. Those of us who eat dairy like to add a a sprinkle of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, but those who need it dairy-free can leave it out. If you're looking to carbo-load, this is probably not going to cut it, but if you're looking to go a little healthier, or need ideas for Paleo-ish, gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, nightshade-free Italian-esque classics, this is regular on our meal plan has six thumbs up from everyone, including the picky toddler and the man-child, the sensitive kindergartner, the first-grader with oral defensiveness, and the foodies among us.