Meatballs are popular around my home. My kid loves them and asked for three helpings last night. I love them because they fit most of my criteria for a quick weeknight meal: simple real-food ingredients, easy-clean-up, proteins (organic when possible), healthy fats, lots of vegetables, and delicious.
Skip frying the meatballs and bake them instead for a healthier and less messy alternative. The addition of tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes give these meatballs a rich flavor. I recommend 100% grass fed organic beef, ground chicken, or ground turkey. Add a handful of broccoli or spinach the same time you process the onions/garlic/carrot to get in extra veggies (tonight I added chopped collard greens because it was what I had in the fridge).
If desired, place a small ball of fresh mozzarella in the center of each meatball (Ciliegine sized or half a Bocconcini tend to work best) and/or add grated parmesan cheese to the meat mixture (this would make an awesome party appetizer, too!)
These meatballs can be made gluten-free by subbing panko with equal parts ground almond flour and ground flax meal. My daughter gets brown rice noodles and I eat the meatballs over sprirulized zucchini noodles (zoodles) or roasted cauliflower.
Rao’s Sauce Roasted Garlic flavor: This real food pasta sauce has no added sugar, fillers, or chemicals. Also I add a TBSP of real butter while heating the sauce to add more flavor and additional healthy fat.
Tinkyada Brown Rice Noodles: A great gluten-free option. I doubt your kids will notice the difference between this and regular pasta. Comes in a variety of shapes and colors. Hint: add 2-3 pinches of salt to the boiling water before adding the pasta, and make sure you stir the pasta a few times throughout cooking, especially in the beginning so the noodles don’t stick together. There are also a lot of different gluten-free noodles coming into the market made with lentils and garbanzos. You can always mix some regular pasta in with these higher protein bean-based noodles.
Tomato Paste In A Tube: A must-have for when you only need a few TBSPs of tomato paste. (No more opening those small cans of tomato paste only to throw away half of it!). Tomato paste adds a layer of umami — I also add tomato paste to lentils, stews, and soups. Its usually found in the same aisle as the pasta sauces and canned tomato pastes. I use the 365 brand from Whole Foods.
Sun Dried Tomatoes In Olive Oil: Another must have pantry item. In addition to these meatballs, I use a couple of TBSP in my cauliflower rice, pastas, and pesto. I use the julienned version from Trader Joes.
Panko or Breadcrumbs: Be careful of certain brands of panko and breadcrumbs that contain inflammatory oils like soybean oil. I choose Ians brand which I find at Whole Foods. For gluten-free meatballs I will sub equal parts almond meal and/or ground flax meal.
1 pound 100% grass fed ground beef, chicken, or turkey
1/2 cup panko or breadcrumbs (see note above about subbing almond meal/flax for gluten-free).
1 TBSP sun-dried tomatoes chopped (see note above about sun-dried tomatoes)
1 TBSP tomato paste (see note above about tomato paste)
1⁄2 yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 generous tsp kosher salt
Optional: Small-sized balls fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1⁄2 inch pieces – omit for dairy-free.
Optional 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Optional 1/2 cup broccoli, spinach, or kale
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Using a food processor combine onion, garlic, and carrot until finely chopped (it will resemble mush). Add in broccoli, spinach or other vegetable if using.
In one big bowl thoroughly combine beef, egg, panko, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato
paste, onion-garlic-carrot mixture, parmesan (if using), salt, and pepper (mix using your hands or a big spoon).
Roll meat into balls – slightly smaller than golf balls then place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. You may need two baking sheets as you do not want to crowd the meatballs – otherwise they will steam and not brown.
Optional if using mozzarella balls: Place a meatball in the palm of your hand. Press mozzarella into center of meatball and roll back into a ball.
Sprinkle meatballs with kosher salt.
Cook meatballs in the oven for approximately 25 minutes until cooked through and slightly brown on top.
Serve with pasta and sauce of choice.
Happy, healthy eating! If you have any questions, please leave them for me in the comments.