Juicy, tender, and full of flavor, a good italian meatball is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, finding a decent gluten free and low carb recipe for classic Italian meatballs isn’t easy.
You see, it’s the bread crumbs that usually make meatballs tender – without them you can end up with a dense, chewy mouthful that more resembles a rubber hockey puck than an authentic italian meatball. I know because I’ve tried. So what’s a meatball loving low carber to do????
I’m very happy to report that I finally figured out an Italian meatball recipe that results in a meatball that anyone’s Italian grandmother (I’m totally guessing here, mine is French Canadian) would be satisfied with! They “meat” (heh heh, see what I did there?) all of the requirements of a good meatball, and won’t bust your carb budget for the day!
In fact they are so good that you won’t even miss the pasta and garlic bread. Ok that might be pushing it (read: a total lie), but they are really good, I promise! Especially when you bathe them in marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese!!! Oh yeah. Totally nom-worthy!
The nice thing is, these low carb Italian meatballs are delicious plain as well, so they make a great finger-friendly lunch on the go. I like to make a bunch and freeze them in bags of 3 – 5 meatballs. If I know I’m going to be out, I can grab a bag out of the freezer and toss it into my purse or cooler bag. A couple of hours later they are thawed, and I can just reach in and eat them, even if I’m driving in my car.
It’s a great alternative to the drive thru, and minimizes your chances of grabbing something that will wreak havoc on your diet or digestive system simply because you’re starving and desperate.
Still, my favorite way to eat them is to bake them in any low carb marinara sauce with a gooey topping of mozzarella cheese on top. It’s hearty and satisfying and perfectly low carb.
Since even homemade or sugar free jarred marinara sauce does have some carbs though, I spoon about a tablespoon over each meatball, which makes it easier to keep track of my nutrition stats. Any more than that gets wasted in the bottom of the pan anyway.
Same goes with the cheese – you can shred it and dump it on, but most of it will melt into a puddle anyway, so I just slice it and put a piece on top of each meatball. Then I bake it until bubbly. You can also microwave it if you’re short on time, you just won’t get the nice brown color on the cheese. But doesn’t it look purty???
The secret to the tenderness of these meatballs is parmesan cheese, almond flour and water added to the mix. The almond flour bulks up the meatball, the cheese adds flavor and more fat, and the water creates steam when heated, which puffs them up and keeps them tender and juicy.
But don’t take my word for it, give them a try and see for yourself! And do be sure to let me know how they come out – especially if you are someone’s Italian grandmother!! ;)
- For the meatballs
- 1.5lbs ground beef (80/20)
- 2 Tbl fresh parsley, chopped
- ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ½ cup almond flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried onion flakes
- ¼ tsp dried oregano
- ½ cup warm water
- For the Parmigiana
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- 4 oz mozzarella cheese
- Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Form into fifteen 2" meatballs. Bake at 350 degrees (F) for 20 minutes OR fry in a large skillet over medium heat until cooked through. Pro-tip - try frying in bacon grease if you have any - it adds another level of flavor. Frying produces the golden brown color shown in the photos above.
- For the Parmigiana
- Place the cooked meatballs in an oven safe dish. Spoon approximately 1 Tbl sauce over each meatball. Cover with approximately ¼ oz of mozzarella cheese each. Bake at 350 degrees (F) for 20 minutes (40 minutes if meatballs are frozen) or until heated through and the cheese is golden. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.
Approx nutrition info per meatball parmigiana: 151 cals, 9g fat, 1.7g net carbs, 12g protein
Final gratuitous meatball shot!
If you love meatballs as much as I do, try these buffalo chicken meatballs – they make a great party appetizer!!
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