Monday, March 21, 2016

Gluten-free, Sugar-free, and Dairy-free Mexican Pasta and Meatballs

One of the drawbacks to being food writers is that it is all too easy to overindulge and put on weight. It's especially bad when we are working on projects where we have to go to a lot of restaurants in a short period of time and sample all manner of food and drink which is so delicious but so detrimental to our physiques. The Minx decided that she was overdue for a curtailing of her naughty foods intake and put herself on a month-long boycott of wheat, sugar, and dairy. I was not willing to go quite that extreme, but I certainly wanted to help by creating dinners that would suit her dietary restrictions.

The biggest challenge for me was to find a way to work my favorite food, pasta, into a meal that we could both eat. We remembered that, several month ago, we tried gluten-free pasta made from corn. It was tasty enough, but for me it didn't quite work with an Italian red sauce, my mind being too conditioned to the taste of semolina in relation to Italian cooking. I tend to associate the flavor of corn with Mexican food. That's where the idea came to me to create a red sauce with Mexican flavors.

I was going to make a meat sauce, but Kathy really had a craving for meatballs, so I had to not only bring Mexican flavors to the meatballs, but also find a way to avoid bread crumbs. Kathy suggested oatmeal, which worked perfectly. The recipe that follows is a low-and-slow, all-afternoon, labor-of-love kind of affair, but everyone should make a meal like that now and again. There's a real sense of accomplishment when you take the time to create something really flavorful and satisfying.

Mexican Pasta and Meatballs

For the sauce:

28 oz. can tomato puree
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste

For the meatballs:

1.5 pounds of ground beef
1 chipotle chopped
2 cloves garlic smashed
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

For the pasta:

1 pound corn pasta
4 teaspoons kosher salt

Start your sauce by sauteing the onions in a large sauce pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. Once the onions have sweated and are slightly caramelized, pour in your tomato puree and diced tomatoes, Add the garlic and tomato pasta and stir to combine. Then stir in the chili powder, cumin, salt, and ancho chili powder. Bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat and cover. Let it continue to simmer with the cover on for two hours, stirring occasionally. Add cilantro.

After two hours, you can create your meatballs. Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl and mush it all together with your hands until everything is thoroughly integrated. Form the mixture into golf-ball-sized meatballs. Heat a frying pan until a drop of water will sizzle in it and add the meatballs. Regularly turn the meatballs with tongs until all sides of the meatballs are nicely browned. Then add the meatballs to your sauce and allow them to simmer in the sauce for at least another half hour.

To cook your pasta, bring five quarts of water to a boil and add four teaspoons of kosher salt. Pour in your pasta and stir. Use the instructions on the package as a guide, but use your own judgement. I find that the instructions for cooking corn pasta tend to overstate the cooking time. After about ten minutes, check a piece for doneness.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, put some in a bowl, set two or three meatballs on top, and then ladle sauce over the whole dish. The flavors will remind you of a Mexican restaurant while the textures and the visual with make you think of an Italian red sauce joint. There's also the added comfort of knowing that you're not eating wheat, dairy, or added sugar.

Follow on Bloglovin

Posted on