I think the title of this post is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re like me, you love Italian food. But maybe you don’t like eating copious amounts of meat, cheese, and pasta. This is especially problematic if you have a wheat allergy as I do. But just because you enjoy eating healthy, clean food, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on taste or eliminate certain cuisines. You CAN eat meatballs and maintain a healthy lifestyle! And my gluten free meatballs are a perfect recipe that’s been modified for those who are health conscious and gluten free!
Some Tips for Making Gluten Free (GF) Italian Food
- Breadcrumbs–This is a question I get from a lot of people: What do I use instead of breadcrumbs? Answer: Rice Chex, Flax Meal, and Almond meal. These three are some of the best substitutes that I’ve found for breadcrumbs. Sure, you can buy gluten free bread crumbs at a health food store. But these products are often expensive and highly processed. Why not save yourself some time and money by making your own? Grind Rice Chex (or any other rice based cereal) in a food processor (I use my Vitamix). Mix equal parts of flax meal and almond meal to your Rice Chex. Remember to omit the almond meal if you have a nut allergy. You’ll get a really nice bread crumb substitute that’s GF but has all the body and texture of traditional breadcrumbs!
- Organic Brown Rice Pasta–Don’t buy just any “gluten free pasta” you find at the grocery store. Often these gluten free substitutes use Monsanto corn
(YUCK)and starchy white rice that’s full of additives. Sure, these products might be gluten free, but they’ll still create a spike in blood sugar and they’re still full of GMOs. Try eating organic brown rice pasta. Tinkyada is a great Canadian company that makes a variety of wheat free pasta alternatives! Even though they’re not USDA organic, they are certified by the Canadian government as organic and GF. Rich in magnesium, you won’t even miss the real stuff when eating organic brown rice pasta!
- Incorporate More Vegetables–Italian food is known for its innovative use of vegetables. From sauces loaded with fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, and peppers, to dishes like eggplant and zucchini Parmesan, Italian food is a great way to meet your veggie quota. Take advantage of this cuisine by adding extra veggies to red sauces or pasta primavera dishes. You can even use zucchini or eggplant slices as a substitute for lasagna slices!
Below is one of my favorite Italian GF recipes. I love adding lots of veggies and herbs to my sauces. It’s a great way to boost nutrition for even some of the pickiest eaters. I also used a combination of Rice Chex and Ground Flax as a substitute for my breadcrumbs. Turkey instead of beef reduces the fat content of this dish significantly!
Gluten Free Turkey Meatballs with Basil and Parsley Infused Tomato Sauce
For the meatballs:
1 pound 97/3 lean ground turkey
1 cup Rice Chex, ground
1/4 cup ground flax meal
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp dried parsley
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
For the sauce:
1 large can low-sodium crushed tomatoes
2 small cans low-sodium tomato sauce
1 package fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, minced
1 Tbsp garlic, minsed
1/2 small can tomato paste
1 handful each of fresh basil and parsley, chopped finely
1. Combine turkey, egg, garlic, and dried spices. Mix until well combined. Gradually start adding the breadcrumb mixture a 1/4 cup at a time. You might notice you need more or less breadcrumbs. If you need to make more bread crumbs, add them. And don’t feel obligated to use all the breadcrumbs I called for in this recipe! You want the meat mixture to be combined, but not dry. When you can mix it easily and it holds shape, it’s ready.
2. Roll the meatballs into 1 inch balls. Set aside.
3. In a large pot, add a little oil to coat (1 Tbsp at most). Fry the onion and garlic gently for 3 minutes on medium heat. Add the meatballs in even rows so that all the meatballs have enough space and access to direct heat. If your pot isn’t big enough, cook the meatballs in batches.
4. Let the meatballs fry over medium/medium-low heat for about 8-10 minutes. When they are almost done cooking, add the crushed tomato, tomato sauce, and tomato paste.
5. Let the mixture cook for fifteen minutes. Add the chopped mushroom, peppers, basil, and parsley.
6. Let the sauce cook cook for at least 1 hour. Honestly, the longer it cooks, the better. Keep it on as long of a low simmer as you can until you’re ready to eat!
I love recipes like this because they take some of your favorite comfort foods and make them super healthy! There’s no guilt with these meatballs here!