gluten free recipes

By Mary Frances Pickett

Spinach Meatballs over Spaghetti Recipe

This meatball recipe actually has nothing to do with meat. Instead, the balls are formed from healthy beans. They can be served over pasta, just like normal meatballs, with sauce.

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It doesn’t seem right to call meatballs that are made with beans “meatballs”. They should be called beanballs. But that sounds like something that you might hear in a whispered conversation between fourth-grade boys. Regardless, these meatballs made with beans make a quick and satisfying supper with plenty of leftovers for meatball sandwiches later in the week.

If you’re not a vegetarian, I imagine it’s tempting to skip right by this recipe. But don’t! These really are quite tasty and there are a number of advantages to using beans instead of meat.

First, you don’t have to put your hands into raw, ground meat. This is a big plus for me; I’ve never liked the smell of raw meat and I would much rather mush around in beans than bits of turkey.

Second, beans have much more fiber than meat. If you’re looking for additional sources of fiber now that whole-grain wheat cereals are off-limits, this is a good option.

Third, and probably most important for some of you, beans have almost no fat and less than half the calories of an equal weight portion of ground turkey. It’s easy to cut fat and calories from your diet, while feeling completely satisfied, simply by substituting beans for meat in some of your dishes. Using an egg white rather than a whole egg in this recipe would reduce the fat even more.

Later this week, I’ll have a recipe for Spinach Meatball Sandwiches, so that you can use up the leftover meatballs.


(Yield: 4 servings (you’ll need sides) plus leftover meatballs)

  • 1 16 oz. bag frozen spinach, defrosted
  • 2 cans kidney beans, drained (or 2 lbs. ground turkey)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 c. stock (vegetable, chicken, or beef)
  • 1/2 c. rice flour
  • breadcrumbs from two heels of bread
  • 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bottle of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 12 oz. package gluten free spaghetti

Prep Work

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Defrost spinach in microwave. Put the defrosted spinach in a colander and press the water out.
  3. Open and drain the kidney beans. Put the beans into a food processor and pulse five times. The beans should be cut up, but not pureed.
  4. Dice the onion. Mince the garlic, if you’re not using the stuff from the jar.
  5. Toast the heels of a loaf of gluten free bread and then chop or crumble into small pieces.
  6. Put a big pot of water on to boil.

Making the Meatballs

  1. Add the spinach, beans (or turkey), onion, garlic, egg, stock, rice flour, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. With your hands (or a spoon if you’re squeamish) knead, squish and/or stir the ingredients until their well combined (i.e. you shouldn’t see any egg or liquids when you’re done).
  2. Use a spoon to scoop up a portion of the bean mixture and form into a ball (make a circle with your thumb and index finger to see about how big the balls should be). Place the meatballs on a greased baking sheet.
  3. Bake the meatballs at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. When you take them out of the oven, cut one in half and make sure they are hot in the center.

Making the pasta

  1. Once the water is boiling, cook the gluten free pasta according to the package directions.
  2. When the pasta has cooked, drain in a colander and then add it back to the pot. Pour in approximately half of the bottle of pasta, and toss until all the strands are coated with sauce. Cover and heat on low until ready to serve.


Divide the pasta onto four plates. Place 3 meatball on top of each serving of pasta. Serve with a green salad, green beans, or some other scrumptious green vegetable.

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