Growing up, we looked forward to Sunday all week, mostly for the time spent with family around the table, but also for the big pot of sauce bubbling away on the stove. Sauce, fondly referred to as gravy in our family, meant meatballs, Italian sausage and sometimes a hunk or two of pork cooked for several hours in the sauce. The tomato sauce would be infused with the flavor of the meats, making for an intensely aromatic, wildly delicious sugo or ragu. You could smell it from the driveway! More often than not, I would rip off a piece of Italian bread and dunk it into the simmering gravy, as far down as I could go before I burned the tips of my fingers. I remember the platters of meat coming to the table, forks trying to stab at the meatball that you had been eyeing up as soon as it came out of the pot! I could go on for hours about the traditional Italian Sunday; from the food to the drink to the laughter. But let’s talk about the meatballs….
My great grandmother made the best meatballs you’ve ever tasted. My grandfather’s were a close second. My mother now reigns as the meatball queen. My husband has no shame in telling me that my meatballs are awesome, but my mom’s are the best. Some battles just aren’t worth fighting. She makes a darn good meatball. She wins. My great grandmother and mother’s recipes call for breadcrumbs in their meatballs, while my grandfather used day-old Italian bread, torn into pieces and soaked in a bit of milk. As I set out to create my gluten free Sunday Meatball recipe, I combined techniques from both meatball recipes of my childhood — and added a little trick of my own! My husband and kids love these Sunday Meatballs and while we don’t have sauce every Sunday like years past, we do have it often. Read on to get my recipe and create a Sunday Meatball tradition in your home!
- If I’m making a lot of meatballs and simmering them in my Sunday Sauce, I usually bake them since it’s easier. However, feel free to fry them, as well. They are DELISH! Use canola or vegetable oil since both have a high smoke point. Drain off excess oil on a paper towel lined dish.
- You can also make the meat mixture and form the balls ahead of time. Just keep them in the fridge in a SINGLE layer until you’re ready to bake or fry!
Gluten Free Sunday Meatballs
- 2 1/2 lbs. chopped meat (I like the trio of beef, pork and veal)
- 1/2 cup grated cheese
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3/4 cup gluten free panko (I prefer Aleia's brand)
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp. dried or fresh Italian parsley flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 2 heaping tablespoons of tomato paste (I always have the one in the squeeze tube in my fridge!)
- Step 1 In a small bowl, combine the Panko and milk. You want just enough milk so the breadcrumbs absorb the liquid, but isn’t swimming in liquid or milky. Set aside.
- Step 2 Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Add the panko mixture. With clean hands or wearing food grade kitchen gloves, gently mix and knead the meat so that all of the ingredients and seasonings are incorporated. Don’t overtax or the meatballs will be tough.
- Step 3 Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or foil. Place a non-stick oven rack in the baking sheet. Spray the rack with canola oil.
- Step 4 Form the meat into balls about 2 inches in diameter. Place on the rack.
- Step 5 Bake for 25 minutes on the first side then flip each meatball over and bake for another 20 minutes or so, until the inside is no longer pink.
- Step 6 The meatballs are delicious eaten baked! Or, you can place them in your pot of hot tomato sauce and let them simmer with the sauce. Serve with gluten free pasta and additional grated cheese!