Dairy-Free Meatballs

October 2, 2009 at 12:02 pm Leave a comment

It was Mr.’s birthday last week, and I told him that he could have a meal of his choosing.  The thing he really wanted most?  Pasta and meatballs.  I don’t tend to make meatballs very often (or for that matter meat in general).  It was his birthday, and I was happy to try and come up with something.  What can I say?  I express my love through food (at least some of the time!).

Part of the reason for that is because I’ve always been afraid of making meatballs without the milk and the grated cheese.  Recently, though, I tried an experiment.  What would happen if I left those things, those yummy-in-every-recipe-you-can-find ingredients, out?

And when I looked in my refrigerator, I also noticed that I didn’t have any eggs, either.  So this would have to be anything but your meatball with bread soaked in milk and bound together with an egg and some melted cheese.

What resulted was a savory, satisfying meatball that was also super easy.  I roast them in the oven, so there’s no need to stand over the stove and turn them over and over while they cook.

I can’t believe how good these are.  They are moist — without all those sinful ingredients.  I’ve tried them with turkey, and they work just as well.  So simply use your ground meat of choice.

Here are the ingredients:

1 lb. ground meat
(I have 1/2 lb. of ground beef (85% lean) and 1/2 lb. of ground pork — hey, it was a special occasion!)
1 small yellow onion
1-3 garlic cloves (depending on how big they are and how much you like garlic)
scant 1/4 c. whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 T. ketchup
Yes, ketchup.  The vinegar and tomato mix works well, and Giada De Laurentiis recommends this in her dairy-filled recipe for meatballs, so I know I’m not way out there.  And I’m Irish, so I don’t have any Italian grandma’s recipe I’m messing with here.
2 T. worcestershire sauce
This is the key ingredient.  It adds a nice savory bite to the meatballs.  You need this when you don’t have milk or cheese or eggs in it.  Combined with the ketchup, the flavor is intensified.
1/4-1/2 t. red pepper flakes
You can skip this all together, but without ingredients from the dairy case, I find a little spice makes all the difference.
1/4 t. dried basil
1/4 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. salt

Preheat your oven to 375° F (190° C).
Chop the onion and the garlic as finely as you reasonably can.  I’m not a professional chef, and don’t chop like one. You don’t need to drive yourself crazy trying to get this perfect.
You can quickly sweat these (you know, cook them in a saute pan until they soften a bit) in a little oil at this point.  I was running a little late, and didn’t bother this time.  It was fine without doing it, but the little bit of oil in the meatballs can be a nice touch.
Toss them into a bowl.
Put your ground meat into the bowl with those aromatics.
Add the rest of your ingredients to the bowl.  Nothing fancy here.
Mix everything up.  Use your hands, a fork, a spoon.  Whatever works for you.  This is about half-way there.  You want everything to be well incorporated.  Don’t overwork it, though.  Once it looks like you’ve got a good distribution of the onions, you can probably stop.
Place a layer of aluminum foil on a rimmed baking sheet.  This will save you a lot of time when it comes to clean-up.
Thinly coat with a little oil (maybe about 1 T.)  Olive or vegetable are fine.  Whatever you have on hand.
Begin to shape the meatballs.  I like to do this with two tablespoons.  Scoop up one slightly heaping spoonful of meat from the bowl.  Scrape it from one spoon to the other, rotating the spoons slightly so that it rounds out the ball.  If you want to use your hands, go for it.  Once it is in proper ball form, place it on the oiled sheet pan.
From one pound of meat, I got 15 meatballs.  You can see that they are a little imperfect, and that they have onions sticking out of them.  This is ok.
Bake in preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until cooked through.
When they come out of the oven, they should be nicely browned on top and on the bottom where they were in contact with the pan.
You may want to drain them on a towel, if you’re feeling a little healthy.  If you’re feeling a little naughty, don’t bother.
Serve however you would like.  In this case, per request, I topped some rigatoni and tomato sauce (home-made) with the meatballs and served a small green salad with a balsamic vinaigrette.  Use them however you want, though.  I froze the other half of these for another day.  You won’t miss the dairy with these flavorful bits of deliciousness!

Dairy-Free Meatballs

1 lb. ground meat
1 small yellow onion
1-3 garlic cloves (depending on how big they are and how much you like garlic)
scant 1/4 c. whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 T. ketchup
2 T. worcestershire sauce
1/4-1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/4 t. dried basil
1/4 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. salt

  • Preheat your oven to 375° F (190° C).
  • Chop the onion and the garlic as finely as you reasonably can.
  • Toss them into a bowl.
  • Put your ground meat into the bowl with those aromatics.
  • Add the rest of your ingredients to the bowl.
  • Mix everything up.  Once it looks like you’ve got a good distribution of the onions, you can probably stop.
  • Place a layer of aluminum foil on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Thinly coat with a little oil (maybe about 1 T.)  Olive or vegetable are fine.
  • Begin to shape the meatballs.
  • Once it is in proper ball form, place it on the oiled sheet pan.
  • Bake in preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until cooked through.
  • Drain on towel (or not).
  • Serve hot.
Makes 15 meatballs.
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Entry filed under: Italian, Meat, Under.

Overnight honey whole wheat bread loaves, cooling Oh, I dream, I dream, I dream of Amsterdam.

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