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Meatball Bars (gluten free)

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This is an easy, quick dinner that I like to make for my 3 year old!   I created this bar recipe because my child loves meatballs and tomato sauce, but hates pasta. This takes less time than making individual meatballs and makes less mess when he eats!  Instead of sloppy sauce spilling everywhere, these bars can be cut into tiny bite size squares that you can spear with a fork.  I also discovered that the flavor of the tomatoes and cheese is so strong, you can't even taste the handful of fresh spinach that I snuck into the topping :)

Ingredients:

For the base layer:

1 lb ground beef
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup gluten free bread crumbs (I make my own in the food processor)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper 
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
1 Tablespoon dried minced onions (you can use fresh if you saute them first)
1 tsp dried parsley

For the topping:
14 oz tomato paste (I like the tomato paste in glass jars available at Wholefoods...no cans/BPA)
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp chopped garlic
Large handful of fresh baby spinach leaves (about 30-40)

Instructions:

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  In a medium sized bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the base layer except for the beef.  You can also use a stand mixer for this part....mix on low speed.  When it is very well mixed, add in the beef and stir until everything is well mixed.

3.  Spread the meat mixture into a greased casserole dish, about 8"x12".    Note: You can also make this in a glass pie dish and cut it into wedges...it tastes exactly the same, but ends up slightly thicker than with the larger dish.

4.  In a small bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the topping layer except for the fresh spinach.   Next pull all of the stems off of your spinach.   Stack them tightly in your hand (see photo above) and using kitchen scissors, cut the spinach into tiny pieces/strips over the bowl of tomato mixture.   Stir in the spinach pieces until they are completely mixed in.

5.  Spread the tomato topping over the beef layer using a rubber spatula.   Bake for 40-45 minutes.

Notes:  My son LOVES this meal because its tasty!  I love that he is eating beef, cheese, tomatoes, onions, garlic and SPINACH, without making too much of a mess in my kitchen.   This stores very well covered in the fridge for a few days...and I always take the leftovers and freeze them in individual sized portions in zip-loc bags.  Defrost overnight in the fridge...then microwave to reheat.

That looks so good! Great twist

kawaiilover9 months ago
Cat food? Lol I love this recipe, my step dad is gluten free, he'd love these. Thanks! ;)
Marcaine Art12 months ago
Many years ago a friend of mine made something similar to this, mainly because we didn't have a loaf pan in the house. Later that night our Vegan friend came over and raided the fridge. He thought they were brownies and took a huge bite :-D
(removed by author or community request)
GlutenFreeMama (author)  DELETED_rtran11 year ago
Definitely not! Meatloaf is poorly designed due to its preparation in a loaf pan. Only about 25% of the meat gets covered in the tasty topping....the remaining 75% of the dish is left bland. With my recipe, every single forkful contains both the meat and the delicious tomatoes on top.