cannellini bean and spinach meatballs with tomato sauce (gluten-free, grain-free, vegan, paleo, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free)

It’s July, it’s too hot to do anything other than lay outside in the sun, and I’m making meatballs with tomato sauce. Why? They’re so easy to prepare, they’re such an easy, light dinner, and they’re immensely summery. I mean, they’re not even meatballs; they’re actually a myriad of crushed cannellini beans and fresh baby spinach in a thick, bright red tomato sauce, and they’re amazing. It’s halfway through summer and I’m still using the correct they’re. Shouldn’t this be banned or something?

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As I served these to a patiently waiting gaggle of assorted family members huddled around our ancient wooden table, worn from so many long, cold winters spent outside, bursts of Dutch and English mingling through the air, and a copious amount of laughter erupting every few seconds, I smiled. Everybody was blissfully unaware of the outside world, enjoying the simplicity of family who had each come from entirely different corners of the world with stories of their travels, perkily coloured drinks in a collection of odd glasses, and fragrant, vivid foods splayed across the table. This is life, I thought; this is wonderful.

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The June Daring Cooks’ challenge sure kept us rolling – meatballs, that is! Shelley from C Mom Cook and Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to try meatballs from around the world and to create our own meatball meal celebrating a culture or cuisine of our own choice. Everyone loves Italian food so I decided to do something with cannellini beans, juicy fresh tomatoes, and the gorgeous baby spinach I’d picked up that day. Feel free to take this very simple base recipe and run with it – by the way, little children (and big ones, too) make fantastic bean mashers. Enjoy!

Cannellini Bean and Spinach Meatballs in a Tomato Sauce (gluten-free, grain-free, vegan, paleo, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free)

by Alessandra Peters

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4)

    For the Meatballs

    • 1 can cannollini beans, drained and rinsed
    • 75g fresh baby spinach, chopped
    • salt, oregano, and pepper, to taste

    For the Tomato Sauce

    • 500g fresh tomatoes, quartered
    • 50ml water
    • salt, oregano, and pepper, to taste


    1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).

    2. In a bowl, mash the cannollini beans to a thick paste with your hands. It’s okay if there are some bits! Add in the spinach and seasonings to taste.

    3. Roll the mixture into small balls in your hands and bake for 10 minutes or until their aroma just starts to fill your kitchen! Let them cool for a couple of minutes before you add them to the tomato sauce.

    4. For the tomato sauce, add the tomatoes to a tablespoon or so of garlic infused oil (or normal oil and a chopped garlic glove) on medium heat. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, then add the water, taking care to not burn yourself as it will splatter! Keep simmering for another 5 minutes or so until the tomatoes break down. If needed, ‘squash’ them with a spatula. Stir for another 5 minutes while the sauce thickens, then turn off the heat.

    5.When your meatballs are done, add them to the sauce carefully. Let it infuse for a minute, then scoop out the meatballs and slather with tomato sauce.

    6. Enjoy!

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