I love my friends, but let’s be honest – they are a bunch of picky eaters!  Alright, some of them are picky.  Others are perfectly happy to eat whatever, whenever, wherever.  Project “You Buy, I Cook” is my way to share cooking and dining experiences with friends – picky and otherwise.  For the most part, I think the project challenges my friends to eat something new, try an exotic ingredient or discover an unusual flavor combination.

For the latest “You Buy, I Cook” I was the one challenged!  The challenge, posed by my friend Nadiya, was to develop a recipe for Gluten Free and Dairy Free meatballs.  Extra challenge points: no onions, minimum use of spices, and obviously no cheese, milk or bread.

Nadiya showed up with a pound of beef, some instant oatmeal, a few eggs, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce.  We rolled up our sleeves (and later meatballs) and went to work.

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Baked Italian Beef Meatballs with Rice Pasta and Tomato Sauce



1 cup gluten free instant oats

1 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, salt-free

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

2 eggs

1/2 cup water

1 pound ground beef

Tomato Sauce

Olive oil

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can tomato sauce

1-2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning


1.  Combine oats, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and garlic in a food processor.  Pulse until oats are coarsely chopped.  Set aside.  The oats are one of the binders in the recipe and keep your meat balls together.  They also add lots of nutritional value!

2.  In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and water.  If you don’t mind having some dairy in your diet, feel free to substitute water with milk.

3.  Gently stir the oatmeal mixture and eggs with the ground beef.  Mix enough to combine without overworking the beef.  Overworking the beef will result in tough meatballs and who would want those?

4.  Using a scoop, form meatballs (my medium size scoop allowed for 24 meatballs).  Place meatballs on a lightly greased cooling rack set inside an aluminum lined baking sheet.  Refrigerate the meatballs for 30-60 minutes to allow the oatmeal to absorb the liquid and the meatballs to set.

5.  Meanwhile, make tomato sauce by sauteing canned tomatoes in olive oil along with Italian seasoning.  Add a can of tomato sauce and sugar, and simmer on low until the meatballs are done.  If it were up to me, I would start the sauce by sauteing onion and garlic, adding red pepper flakes and finishing up with freshly grated cheese.

6.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Remove meatballs from the refrigerator and bake for 30 minutes.

 7.  Serve meatballs, garnished with parsley or basil, along with tomato sauce and cooked rice noodles.

Remember, this is a very basic recipe.  Once in your kitchen, feel free to flavor these meatballs with a variety of spices and herbs.  Leave Italy and travel to Turkey or Morocco, using cumin, turmeric, and perhaps even cinnamon.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you make these Gluten Free, Dairy Free Baked Italian Beef Meatballs with Rice Pasta and Tomato Sauce.  Check out the rest of the “You Buy, I Cook” projects.

Back to the blog