Gluten-Free Splendid Spaghetti and Ricotta Meatballs

My Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother came over from Sicily in 1908. They landed in Ellis Island, and via Chicago, landed in Arma, Kansas. This is where my Grandfather, Paul, met my Grandmother, Dorothy. These two are the two best people I have and will ever known. Dorothy was a nurse. She was kind, very funny, and one of the strongest women I’ve ever known. She was not only diagnosed with Celiac Disease, but she was also diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease as well. Sadly, she passed away from Esophageal Cancer (which is very common in patients with Celiac Disease, back then about 75% to be exact…this is why it is SO VERY IMPORTANT to follow a strict gluten-free diet.) Paul just turned 97 years young this past September, and owned his own business. He is an incredibly smart, kind, and loving man. They have three children, and three grandchildren. One of my favorite memories was when the entire family was in town for our Sunday family dinners…Now, if you’re Italian, or even just have a large family, you know what I’m talking about! Grandma would wake up at 5am to put the sugo on (direct translation is “gravy,” but we mean sauce,) in would go the neck bones and meatballs, and they would simmer for HOURS! Well, if my grandmother knew I was giving you a recipe using a jar sauce, or even just oven-baked meatballs, it would be the end of me! But believe me, it still tastes like it baked for hours (sometimes I still let it sit on the stove for over an hour or so.) Then, 6 hours later, you’d finally eat…well, ain’t no body got time for that! I watched her for years make all of our food and then her separate “Celiac” bowl of macaroni pasta (that’s all they had back then.) So, let’s take a moment to be grateful for how far gluten-free has come, please? We use to have to drive to a store about 30 mins away just to get her bread (they didn’t have it at any of her normal supermarkets back then.) Now you can find it nearly everywhere. So below, you will find my family’s, though modified, recipe for spaghetti and meatballs. I have made some creative changes over the years. I do bake them in the oven now, as opposed to in the sauce. This bakes out the grease, still keeps them moist, and keeps the cooking time and mess to a minimum. I hope you enjoy this little taste of my home and history!

 

Meatballs:

1 ½ lbs Ground Beef (80% lean or better)

3 tbsp Sofrito

2 tsp #1 Seasoning Blend

4 cloves minced Garlic

2/3 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

2/3 cup Breadcrumbs (gluten-free Italian, 4C is a good brand)

¼ tsp dried Basil

¼ tsp dried Parsley

2 Eggs

½ tsp Chili Powder (optional)

 

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Sauce:

1/3 c chopped Sweet Onions

½ tbsp. Italian Seasoning Paste

3 tbsp Sofrito

3 cloves minced Garlic

3 jars Ragu Chunky Tomato, Garlic, and Onion (gluten-free and sulfite-free!)

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Ricotta Mixture:

1 (15 oz) tub of Ricotta (Galbani brand is gluten-free and sulfite-free)

¼ c Grated Parmesan

1 tsp Paprika

1/3 c fresh Parsley

1 tsp dried Oregano

2 cloves minced Garlic

1 tbsp milk (I use 2 % Lactaid to reduce Lactose as much as possible)

1 tsp chopped Shallot (optional)

 

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Directions:

  1. Marinate Meat. Massage Sofrito, Seasoning Blend, and Garlic into meat. Cover, and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
  2. Saute chopped Onions and minced Garlic in pan until Onions are opaque and Garlic is fragrant.
  3. Add to a large saucepan with jars of Sauce, Seasoning Paste, and Sofrito.
  4. Bring sauce to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 15 mins, stirring frequently.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Meanwhile, remove Meat Mixture. Mix in Parmesan, Breadcrumbs, Eggs, Parsley, Basil, and Chili Powder (Optional.) Massage with hands until fully incorporated.
  6. Spray 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray. Spread very thin layer of sauce along bottom of pan. Roll into 1.5 inch Meatballs, and set carefully into sauce.
  7. For Ricotta mixture. You can put all ingredients in food processor or chop Herbs, Shallot (optional,) mince Garlic, add 1 tsp Paprika, etc, and whisk together with fork into the Ricotta.
  8. Take a normal spoon, and spoon sauce onto each Meatball, then a spoon of Ricotta mixture on each Meatball, then top each meatball with a sprinkle of dried Oregano. Bake for 35-45 minutes depending on size of Meatballs.
  9. Finally, last 20 minutes of Meatballs, Boil water for Pasta. Follow directions on your box. Drain Pasta, toss in half of remaining sauce (coating every noodle.)
  10. Enjoy!!
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