These beef-spinach mini-meatloaves are a juicy, succulent blend of grass-fed beef, onions, spinach, oats (or quinoa) and seasonings. They bake quickly and are great as part of a meal or as party food. They reheat beautifully – if there are any left! If you prefer, the same mixture can be spooned into a baking dish (I suggest 7 x 4 inch) and baked as a loaf. Just allow more time for baking (an hour).
These little meatballs have all the good parts of meatloaf, dressed up as bite-sized party food. All the flavor and texture from mixing tasty ingredients together. But they bake in a third of the time. Don’t be scared off by the list of ingredients! They mix up quickly.
Some recipes call for raw onions in their meatloaf, which would cut down on the prep time. For my taste, though, the onions don’t cook enough that way, so I always saute mine first. Besides, you will use the same pan to season and coat the noodles, so you still have that pan to wash.
Meatloaf is a favorite in our house, and for the bread-eaters, popular for sandwiches. You can use ground turkey, which makes for a bit softer texture if you prefer it to beef.
Before our gluten-free days, I added bread crumbs to the mixture — but that is no more. In moving away from bread, I started adding oats or even cooked lentils (or both) to the meat mixture. These soften and mellow the texture of the meat, while the oats or lentils soak up the flavors and those good juices. Quinoa flakes have the same effect, and have become more affordable than they were those many years ago.
Then I couldn’t resist adding spinach, then parsley, which both become extra-tasty when baked with all the other yummy things!
Nowadays, I prefer beef for this recipe, since grass-fed beef is so high in omega-3 fatty acids. The oats and other plant-based ingredients keep the beef from getting too firm, a risk with grass-fed beef.
Add garlic or onion and herbs, plus just a little tomato paste or ketchup and a smidge of mustard and you get a savory loaf that can go equally well with potatoes or pasta. Tomato paste gives the most tomato flavor (considered to have lots of umami character) for the amount of space it takes up. Ketchup contributes a distinctive vinegary sweetness.
A recipe fail (true confession)
At Christmas time I made a big batch of these, and decorated each meatball with a cherry tomato because my choral group was singing Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I thought it would make for fun party food. I even folded little handmade muffin cups of parchment paper to make them easier to eat at a party.
Unfortunately, it was a bit of a fail because
1) the tomatoes tended to fall out of their little meatloaf cradles and
2) when re-warmed in the microwave, the tomatoes would swell and pop quite impressively (and messily). Maybe if I’d poked each tomato with a pin? Anyway, they were cute. 😉 See what cool things you learn if you read to the end?
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These beef-spinach mini-meatloaves are a juicy, succulent blend of grass-fed beef, onions, spinach, oats (or quinoa) and seasonings. They bake quickly and are great as part of a meal or as party food. They reheat beautifully – if there are any left!
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 c onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced (if making pasta as shown, mince 2 more cloves of garlic to cook for the pasta)
½ c chopped spinach
1 c chopped parsley, divided (the second part is for the pasta)
1 lb grass-fed ground beef
1/4 c Organic Ketchup
1 large egg
2 teaspoons salt, divided
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried tarragon (or other herb of choice, such as rosemary or sage)
1 teaspoon prepared Organic Dijon Mustard
For the pasta:
1 4-ounce package of gluten-free spaghetti
2 tablespoons of ghee, olive oil or butter
2 cloves of minced garlic (the extra that you prepared)
1/2 cup of parsley
- Sauté the onions until tender, 5-6 minutes on medium heat.
- Stir in the 3 cloves of minced garlic and cook about 1 minute more. Allow to cool to the touch.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine all ingredients up to the mustard, and stir.
- Form the meat mixture into balls of about 2 tablespoons each (aiming for 24 meatballs) and place on a baking sheet. (if using beef you don’t need to grease it; if using ground turkey, you should).
- Bake at 350 F for 20-22 minutes. If baking into one large loaf, place into a loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes.
- Once you have placed the baking pan into the oven (or about 20 minutes before you expect a large loaf to be done), start the pasta water to boil. Boil the spaghetti according to the package directions (Banza garbanzo pasta shown, which took 12 minutes).
- In the meantime, heat the oil or ghee in the same skillet you used for the onions. Saute the garlic until just tender, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the remaining parsley and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Once the pasta is done to your taste, drain it and place into the skillet. Stir to coat with the garlic-oil-parsley mixture.
- Serve the seasoned pasta with meatballs and any condiments your eaters like with meatloaf. It’s got lots of flavor on its own! But I will understand if they want to add ketchup!
Notes: There is little difference in flavor or texture between the meatballs with oats and those with quinoa. If you don’t eat grains but eat seeds, or if you can’t locate gluten-free oats, quinoa flakes are a great option. Quinoa flakes may be less expensive in bulk at a natural grocer’s – if you can afford a bulk purchase, the product on Amazon is reasonably-priced
The beef I used for this recipe was 15% fat – we figure lots of those great omega-3’s in there – but it works quite well with 7-10% grass-fed beef.
Keywords: meat loaf, meat balls, grass-fed beef, oats, spinach, easy dinner,
Enjoy, let me know in the comments if you made it, and what you thought!