Garlic & Herb “Clean” Meatballs

Garlic & Herb “Clean” Meatballs

I’ve been getting requests for a deliciously healthy, “clean” meatball for years! The challenge has always been this: it’s tough to make a flavorful, tender meatball that is truly lean and clean. And I’m happy to say, I finally nailed it!

I used a few tricks to add moisture like sauteing onion and garlic in olive oil with a splash of Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste and then adding it to the raw beef.  In place of bread crumbs, I used potato flakes (instant mashed potatoes without any seasoning…kept em’ moist and naturally gluten free.)  And at first, I tried to use a 90% lean ground beef and the meatballs were good but I wasn’t satisfied with the texture until I used an 85% lean ground beef. So that’s what I went with, making sure to drain as much oil during the cooking process as I could, to reduce fat.

For flavor, I added a good Parmesan Reggiano cheese (you can probably skip the cheese if you’re dairy free), 8 cloves of garlic (seriously!  I grated the peeled cloves on a microplane to save time), three different herbs (you don’t have to use all 3 but it certainly tastes awesome)  and just a touch of red pepper flakes.  These little flavor bombs made a big impact…these meatballs pack a punch!  Oh…and quality of red sauce makes a difference.  If you’re sauce sucks, so will the dish.  So, I used two jars of quality sauce with tomatoes, not tomato paste as the first ingredient.

This  family style meal is perfect for Sunday dinner or a holiday.  Serve with gluten free brown rice pasta like Tinkyada brand or even zoodles or quinoa. I personally like the meatballs on their own with a side of veggies and no pasta too.

Garlic & Herb “Clean” Meatballs

Makes about 25 small meatballs (serving size is about 3 to 5 meatballs per person / 3 for females or 5 for males, depending on hunger)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, chopped very small
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped small
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely minced or grated (you can use a microplane to grate the garlic to save time)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 heaping tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 2 lbs. 85% lean ground beef, brought to room temperature (leave it out on the counter top for about an hour)
  • 1 egg, gently beaten
  • 1/2 cup good Parmesan Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup dehydrated potato flakes (instant mashed potato flakes -the only ingredient should be potatoes)
  • handful fresh basil, chopped
  • handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • all natural cooking spray
  • 2 jars of good tomato sauce (could be marinara, tomato basil, whatever you like but make sure tomatoes, not tomato paste is the first ingredient)
  • your favorite gluten free cooked pasta or zucchini noodles or whatever you want to serve the meatballs on
  1. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once pan is hot, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Once oil is hot, add chopped onions and rosemary. Saute for about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic and saute only one minute.  Stir in Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and salt.  Saute for one minute or until combined.  Remove mixture from the pan and scrape into a large mixing bowl to cool.  Save pan to cook the meatballs (once pan is cool, wipe it out with a damp paper towel or wash it.)
  2. Add the beef through red pepper flakes to the cooled onion garlic mixture.  Using your hands mix all of the ingredients gently until combined (don’t over mix!)  Roll into about 25 or so smallish meatballs.
  3. Heat 2 large frying pans over medium heat (or use one pan and cook in batches). Once the pans are hot, coat with non fat cooking spray and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  Swirl oil to coat. Let oil get hot and then add meatballs one at a time with your hands or tongs, making sure not to over crowd the pans.
  4. Lightly brown the meatballs on both sides (the inside of the meatballs won’t be cooked)
  5. Remove meatballs from the pan and set aside on plates lined with paper towels.
  6. Wipe out one of the pans with a paper towel and add both jars of sauce.  Turn heat on low.  Gently place meatballs in sauce one at a time and cook on low about 15 or 20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked throughout.
  7. Serve with your favorite gluten free pasta, zoodles, quinoa or veggies.  Enjoy!

This recipe has a great balance of protein and fat with a small amount of carbohydrates.  Serve it with gluten free brown rice pasta, zucchini noodles, quinoa or veggies for healthy carbs.

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