The simplest things are always the most delicious. Go ahead. Prove me wrong. I’ll wait.
A nutty, aged sliver of cheese and a tart apple slice. A thin ribbon of buttery prosciutto draped over a ripe, succulent fig. Juicy, fatty beef hand-rolled into rounds dotted with sweet onion, sharp garlic, and salty parmesan.
Pardon me while I go make a snack.
Lucky for you, I don’t feel the need to drone on about the wonder and ease of preparing meatballs. I don’t need to convince you. You’re already here.
Cooking just constantly blows my mind when I ponder how the art of preparing divine food begins with mastering simplicity.
And what could be simpler than a classic Italian-inspired meatball?
Clearly, the humble term meatball is broad and can be defined in many ways. But today, we’re covering a quick, basic recipe made friendly for those with wheat or gluten allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities thanks to gluten-free breadcrumbs.
Those with these specific dietary restrictions (hi, Mom!) are well-versed in the world of gluten-free items, and well-aware that the industry has come a long way from where it started.
Popular sandwich chains now offer tasty alternatives to their standard hoagie rolls, and a remarkable number of pizzerias provide alternative crust options on their menus.
With a mom who can’t handle wheat and a dad who cooks a homemade meal every night, I’ve gotten to taste many of these products (and they’ve gotten progressively yummier as the years have gone by).
Half of the time, I don’t even realize I’m eating something gluten-free. Once or twice, I’ve even preferred it. (Shh. Don’t tell anybody.)
The GF panko-style breadcrumbs used in this recipe are just as light, airy, and crispy as those made with wheat. And while meatballs don’t necessarily require breadcrumbs (you could also soak gluten-free bread in milk for these), I find that they help to deliver a sturdier texture in the end.
Next up, it’s all about the seasoning for me, and when it comes to herbs and veggies, I’m a fan of fresh.
Dried and ground spices certainly have their place, but the pungent, assertive bite of smashed garlic cloves or that slightly sweet pop that comes from biting down on a piece of minced onion is hard to replicate.
Grassy parsley is a non-negotiable ingredient for me when I’m making Italian food as it cuts through the acidity and fattiness in a way that no other herb can. And though I adore the earthy, almost-flowery scent of dried oregano, the fresh version’s peppery astringency brings an unparalleled dimension of complexity.
Also, they just look more homemade – and ultimately more appetizing – when they’re flecked with vibrant green herbs and clearly distinguishable aromatics.
Grated parmesan adds another touch of fat and salt, keeps the gluten-free game going strong, and helps the rounds stay tight.
Instead of deflating when they’re baked in the oven, which can happen when there’s either too much fat or liquid, these supple meatballs keep their shape like little pros.
I’ll be honest – it was hard to not just pop them all in my mouth one at a time the minute they cooled down enough.
Okay, okay. Two at a time.
Okay, okay. Maybe I didn’t wait for them to cool…Print
Seasoned to perfection and baked until golden-brown and tender, these juicy gluten-free meatballs come together in just thirty minutes.
- 1 pound lean ground beef (like 92% lean/8% fat)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup gluten-free panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup minced or grated white onion
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (about 3/4 ounce), plus more for garnish
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried), plus more for garnish
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or line it with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, add the beef, egg, breadcrumbs, onion, parmesan, garlic, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper. Gently fold the mixture together, making sure not to overwork the meat.
- Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls. You’ll end up with approximately 20-24 meatballs. Place the meatballs onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden-brown and cooked through.
- Divide the meatballs among plates, and garnish with the remaining parsley and parmesan cheese. Serve with a simple mixed greens salad and crusty bread.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Beef
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Dinner
Keywords: gluten-free, beef, meatball
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep the Aromatics
Beat the egg, mince or grate the onion, mince the garlic, and chop the oregano and parsley.
If you grate the onion, make sure to add any excess liquid that comes out to the meat mixture, as it will impart even more flavor.
If you’re looking for mounds of beef dotted with larger pieces of onion (not just onion flavor), you’ll want to mince or dice the onion instead of grating it.
Step 2 – Make the Mixture
In a large bowl, add the beef, egg, breadcrumbs, onion, parmesan, garlic, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper.
Gently fold the mixture together, making sure not to overwork the meat, as over-mixing will make the final texture tough.
Step 3 – Form
Roll the mixture into approximately one-inch balls. You can use about 2 tablespoons as your guide.
The meat mixture shouldn’t stick to your hands too much when you’re rolling it between your palms, but if it does, you can dip your hands in cold water.
You’ll end up with approximately 20 to 24 units.
Step 4 – Bake and Serve
Place each mound onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, or until they’re golden-brown and cooked through.
To freeze: After cooking, allow the meatballs to cool and then place them in zip-top freezer bags. You can put them in separate bags to portion them out for future meals if meal prep is your thing.
To reheat: Either bake the frozen meatballs at 300°F for about 30 minutes (or until heated all the way through), or add enough homemade marinara or golden tomato sauce to a saucepot to cover the meatballs and then put a lid on top and simmer over medium-low heat for about 25 to 30 minutes.
Gluten-Free Goodies for the Win
With the significant number of wheat-free pasta varieties on today’s grocery store shelves (chickpea linguine, anyone?), you can whip up an entirely gluten-free Italian feast by plopping these meatballs atop a mountain of spaghetti and marinara whenever you like.
Share with a four-legged loved one under the stars for the complete Lady and the Tramp experience.
You could also roll these in a smaller size and plop them in an Italian wedding soup with gluten-free pasta. Meatball sandwiches with hearty red sauce and smoky provolone on gluten-free rolls also make for a memorable lunch. Or breakfast.
Hey, no judgement here! I’m the one who burnt my tongue on the meatballs.
Still hungry? Try your hand at these other hand-rolled meaty balls next:
Everybody has their own preferred meatball method. Do you sear yours until golden-brown to create a crust of honor, or bake to perfection?
Share your tasty techniques in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on April 23, 2011. Last updated on October 10, 2021.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”