Summer Spaghetti and Pesto Meatballs {Gluten-Free Recipe}

Summer Spaghetti and Pesto MeatballsThis meal is beautiful, comforting, full of delicious summer flavors, and came together for a few simple reasons . . . .

First — and by far the most interesting — my husband, who’s been a Vegetarian (Pescatarian, really), for the past twenty-one years, was craving meatballs and suddenly and without warning, decided he wanted to add red meat back into his diet.

Second, my parents gave me a handful of perfect summer tomatoes fresh from the vines in their backyard.

And third, my gluten-free son happens to love “Zoodles,” as he likes to call zucchini shaped into noodles.

Summer Spaghetti and Pesto MeatballsVoilà — the meatballs, the sauce, and the spaghetti.

I made this yesterday for my birthday dinner.  It was lovely.Summer Spaghetti and Pesto Meatballs

Summer “Spaghetti” and Pesto Meatballs {Gluten-Free Recipe}
Prep time
Total time
Even if you don't have a special gadget, you can still turn the zucchini into spaghetti. (See instruction no. 10.)
Serves: Serves 6 to 8
For the meatballs
  • 1½-pounds lean ground beef (grass fed if possible)
  • 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves, washed and dried
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes marinated in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons oil from the marinated sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup gluten-free breadcrumbs (I make my own with the ends of our gluten-free bread)
  • 1 large egg, lightly blended
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
For the sauce
  • 2-pounds ripe or overripe tomatoes, washed and dried, roots and seeds removed
  • Olive oil for the pan
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ cup dry red wine
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (Here's How to Season to Taste.)
For the spaghetti
  • 3-pounds zucchini (about 8 medium-sized zucchini)
  • Olive oil for the pan
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ cups tear-drop or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half for garnish
  • Handful of small basil leaves for garnish
For the meatballs
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Add the beef to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the basil, Parmesan, pine notes, sun-dried tomatoes, sun-dried tomato oil, and garlic to a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Blend until it's fairly smooth.
  4. Add the basil mixture to the bowl with the meat, along with the breadcrumbs, egg, salt and sugar. Use a large mixing spoon -- or even better, your hands -- to mix everything together.
  5. Shape the meat into balls, about 3 tablespoons each. Roll them between your hands to make them smooth and place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet as you go. Set aside.
For the sauce
  1. Add the tomatoes to a blender, turn on high and blend until they are completely puréed. Set aside.
  2. Coat the bottom of a very large sauté pan with olive oil and place it over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato pureé and wine. Stir to blend and bring to a boil. Then quickly reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce thickens and reduces by about ¼, about 20 minutes. (Do not cover the pan.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Here's How to Season to Taste.)
  4. Now add the shaped meatballs to the sauce, trying to space them so they are not touching each other. Turn the heat to low-medium and cover the pan. (If it doesn't have a lid, use foil.) Cook for about 10 minutes and then use kitchen tongs to turn them over. Cover and continue to gently simmer until they are cooked through, about another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the pan on the stove.
For the spaghetti
  1. Wash, dry and cut the ends off the zucchini. If you have a "spiralizer," a special gadget to turn various vegetables into "spaghetti," use it. (Here's the one I have -- nothing fancy, and it's great.) Otherwise, use a Chef's knife to slice a bit off of one side to make a base. Place the zucchini on the base and then cut it vertically into very thin slices (less than ⅛-inch if possible). Turn these slices on their flat side, in stacks of about 3, and cut them into thin strips, about the size of spaghetti -- or as close to it as possible.
  2. Coat the bottom of another very large sauté pan with olive oil. Add the prepared zucchini and place the pan over medium heat. Stirring very gently from time to time, cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Serve the meatballs with the sauce over the zucchini and garnish with the tear-drop or cherry tomatoes and basil leaves.
If gluten-free isn't important to you, use any breadcrumbs you'd like to.
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