01.17.19

EPIC Whole30 Baked Meatballs

Okay, hold up. These EPIC Whole30 Baked Meatballs are LIT, y’all.

EPIC Whole30 Baked Meatballs

Growing up, my Italian mother used to make some Meatballs al Forno (aka baked meatballs) that were insanely delicious. They had ricotta inside for a nice, creamy touch and they were just insanely good. I wanted to give her meatballs a little Whole30/Paleo/Dairy-free/Grain-free makeover and I blew my own mind with this recipe! 

EPIC Whole30 Baked Meatballs

I am seriously obsessed with how these turned out and they couldn’t be easier to make. I tried a new hack to give the texture of the meatballs the ricotta effect that my mom’s had. I pulsed up cashews, basil and garlic in the food processor to make a pesto-like situation to put in the filling of the meatballs. The cashews gave the perfect texture to my meatballs and the basil obviously added a vibrant, explosive flavor taking my meatballs to the status of, well, EPIC. 

Other than quickly processing up the cashews, the rest of this recipe is rather simple. Make the meatballs, throw them in a baking dish and bake them at a higher temperature until browned, then smother them in sauce, reduce the heat in the oven and let them cook lower and slower until tender and delicious!

You can serve these however you like. Over pasta, zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, or I even love them solo with a big Whole30 Caesar salad on the side. 

EPIC Whole30 Baked Meatballs

These EPIC Whole30 Baked Meatballs make me proud and I hope you love them as much as I do.

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EPIC BAKED MEATBALLS

epic whole30 baked meatballs
Serves: 5
Print
4.94 from 15 votes
Delicious, Grain-free, Gluten-Free, and Whole30 approved meatballs baked to perfection!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh basil packed (plus more for serving)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup cashews unroasted and unsalted
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 strips of no sugar added bacon finely diced (I like Applegate)
  • 1 pound ground beef 85 percent lean
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 large eggs whisked
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot flour
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 32oz jar marinara (I like Rao's)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley for serving

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  • In a food processor or blender, add the basil and garlic. Turn on and process until finely chopped, 15 to 20 seconds. Add the cashews and lemon zest and process until cashews are finely chopped. It should have a crumbly, dough-like consistency.
  • Transfer the cashew-basil mixture to a large mixing bowl, add the bacon, ground beef, ground pork, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, dried oregano, eggs, and arrowroot flour. Using clean hands, mix the meat until well combined.
  • In a 9x12 baking dish, use a paper towel to evenly coat the bottom of the dish with olive oil.
  • Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out meat mixture and form into 2-inch round balls. Place meatballs in baking dish and repeat until all meatballs are formed and in a single layer in the baking dish. (It makes approximately 17 meatballs).
  • Transfer dish to oven and cook, uncovered, until the meatballs are browned, about 20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
  • Pour marinara evenly over meatballs.
  • Return meatballs to the oven and continue to bake, uncovered, until the meatballs are tender and the sauce is very hot and bubbly, about 45 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and basil.
  • Serve as desired and enjoy!

46 Comments

  • Reply
    Rachael
    February 13, 2021 at 12:40 pm

    This looks amazing! If I was going to add in a pre-made basil pesto, vs creating my own, about how much would you add in?

    • Reply
      Alex
      February 19, 2021 at 6:14 pm

      I’d use about 1/3 cup

  • Reply
    Julie
    February 11, 2021 at 11:47 pm

    5 stars
    Best meatballs I’ve ever eaten in my life. You must make these!
    I leave out the garlic (sensitivity) and sub sausage for pork. Rao’s Sensitive Marinara and you have an insanely good meal.

  • Reply
    Sydney
    February 3, 2021 at 1:09 am

    5 stars
    These are so good! Nothing like them! (even my grandma’s meatballs but shhh)

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    January 31, 2021 at 3:46 pm

    5 stars
    This is the best dish I’ve ever made! My husband is a tough critic of Whole 30 recipes and he can’t wait for me to make them again : ) Thank you!

  • Reply
    Grace
    January 25, 2021 at 2:32 am

    5 stars
    Made these tonight with spaghetti squash on the side, and they were so good! I was skeptical on adding lemon zest, but it added such a nice zing of flavor at the end of a bite to balance the savoriness of the meat. We have a nut allergy in the family, so I left out the cashews and mixed everything at once. Also, my grocery store was out of ground pork so I subbed ground Italian turkey sausage. Texture and flavor was still great.

  • Reply
    Molly Clardy
    January 22, 2021 at 9:21 pm

    5 stars
    These are soooooo full of flavor and perfect….

  • Reply
    Kathy A
    January 22, 2021 at 12:37 am

    4 stars
    Outstanding! Served w cauliflower rice. I’d like to try the meatball recipe in your book to. It has become my favorite cookbook. The ckn parm was amazing. I want to make everything in that book!

  • Reply
    Carolyn
    January 19, 2021 at 6:30 am

    5 stars
    Most Whole30 meatballs I’ve tried to make are dry and not so good. These meatballs are moist and delicious. Even if I wasn’t following Whole30 these will be my go to recipe for meatballs.

  • Reply
    Ellie
    January 18, 2021 at 11:52 pm

    5 stars
    Made these as part of whole30 and they are by far one of the favorite things I’ve made! I ate it with spiralized butter nut squash noodles and Muir Glenn tomato sauce and it was AMAZING. 100% will become part of my regular rotation when W30 is done.

  • Reply
    Cass
    January 18, 2021 at 8:55 pm

    Hi, I cant wait to try! Do you have suggestions for egg substitute? My son cant have any dairy or eggs. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 24, 2021 at 9:15 pm

      a “flax egg” should work here!

  • Reply
    Elizabeth
    January 14, 2021 at 8:47 pm

    I do not have basil on hand, but do have Italian parsley. Do you think that would work in its place? Looking forward to trying these!

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 15, 2021 at 12:39 pm

      You can use parsley– it’ll change the flavor quite a bit, though.

  • Reply
    Jessica
    January 12, 2021 at 2:04 pm

    5 stars
    These were amazing!

  • Reply
    Shelby Borghardt
    January 12, 2021 at 1:24 am

    These meatballs were a big hit! I used a mixture of lean ground Turkey and Italian pork sausage. Unfortunately didn’t have any bacon on hand, but we’re still delicious! Love the flavor from the basil cashew mixture. Don’t leave out the lemon zest- provides such a yummy brightness!

  • Reply
    Andrea
    January 11, 2021 at 10:35 pm

    5 stars
    This is one of those recipes that shocks you that it’s whole30 since it’s so delicious! I put them over butternut squash noodles, would highly recommend!

  • Reply
    Dom
    January 11, 2021 at 6:20 pm

    Excited to make these! Can you cook faster than 45 min at a higher temp?

  • Reply
    Kristy
    January 11, 2021 at 5:27 pm

    Thanks for making Whole30 so delicious. I couldn’t find unroasted and unsalted cashews. Will roasted and salted work well? Or should I omit altogether?

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 12, 2021 at 11:44 pm

      that should be fine!! i would just cut back a tad on the salt added.

  • Reply
    LB
    January 8, 2021 at 3:00 pm

    Hi Alex! Can’t wait to make these! Any idea about how much pesto this makes? (Looking to make that part in advance for easily adding when it’s time to construct!) Thank you!

  • Reply
    Alexandra
    January 6, 2021 at 12:31 am

    5 stars
    YUM! Doubled this recipe and I’m so excited to have these in our freezer and ready to eat again soon. Awesome taste and good texture.

  • Reply
    Courtney
    January 5, 2021 at 10:57 pm

    Do these freeze well?

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 6, 2021 at 2:33 pm

      yes, for sure! I prefer to roll the meatballs and freeze prior to cooking. but both ways work.

  • Reply
    Jane
    January 3, 2021 at 11:24 pm

    5 stars
    I just made these meatballs (Whole30, day 3) and this recipe is simply amazing! I was a bit skeptical about the cashews and lemon zest but I made the recipe exactly as written and wouldn’t change a thing! This will go into the rotation for sure, whole30 and beyond. Thank you, thank you for sharing!

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 4, 2021 at 1:35 pm

      Thank you, Jane!

  • Reply
    Kathryn Jones
    December 21, 2020 at 3:09 am

    5 stars
    These are the best meatballs I’ve ever eaten! I used Jimmy Dean sausage (natural style) vs ground pork and omitted the bacon because it’s what we had. SO good! Thank you for this delicious recipe! I will try making them again W30 style (with the ground pork and s/f bacon) in January.

    • Reply
      Katie
      January 6, 2021 at 2:20 am

      5 stars
      Excellent meal! Omitted the bacon and they were still great!

  • Reply
    Abby
    December 20, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    I know you address the cashew allergy above. My husband is allergic to all nuts. Would this recipe work without the nuts? These look so delish and would love to try them!!

    • Reply
      Alex
      December 21, 2020 at 12:07 pm

      yes, it will work without the nuts for sure! It does add a creaminess to the bite; but they’ll still be delightful without. If you are ok with dairy– I suggest adding 1/2 cup ricotta

      • Reply
        Carolina
        January 17, 2021 at 3:19 pm

        If we want to use a pesto we’ve already made, would you also suggest a 1/2 cup?

        • Reply
          Alex
          January 18, 2021 at 3:54 pm

          yes 1/2 cup should be good

  • Reply
    Bridget
    December 8, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    Substitution for ground pork and beef? Will ground turkey or chicken work? And turkey bacon to substitute regular bacon?

    • Reply
      Alex
      December 9, 2020 at 1:23 pm

      If you opt to use turkey or chicken– I’d definitely go for dark meat (ground chicken or turkey thigh) to ensure the meatballs don’t dry out.

    • Reply
      Emily
      January 15, 2021 at 2:18 am

      5 stars
      SO. GOOD. My husband says they’re the best meatballs I’ve made!!! Thanks Alex!

  • Reply
    K.
    November 15, 2020 at 1:35 am

    Can’t wait to try these!! Have you tried freezing them?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 16, 2020 at 1:59 pm

      yes!! I freeze them raw and just thaw + bake them when ready to cook!

  • Reply
    Melissa Carpenter
    November 9, 2020 at 12:30 am

    The best meatballs I’ve ever had, hands down! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 9, 2020 at 12:53 pm

      yippee!!

  • Reply
    Lauren
    October 22, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    Should the bacon be cooked before it is added?

    • Reply
      Alex
      October 22, 2020 at 5:02 pm

      No, it will cook while in the meatballs

  • Reply
    Nikki
    October 22, 2020 at 3:31 am

    Is there a substitution you recommend for the cashews. My daughter is allergic

    • Reply
      Alex
      October 22, 2020 at 1:23 pm

      The best sub would be pine nuts, if she is allowed to have those. I would just chop them up really finely.

    • Reply
      Amy
      January 6, 2021 at 6:57 am

      Is there a substitution for the arrowroot? Would almond flour work?

      • Reply
        Alex
        January 6, 2021 at 2:31 pm

        Almond flour will be okay to use here. I prefer tapioca or arrowroot as it’s not as grainy.

  • Reply
    Julie Dalton
    October 19, 2020 at 11:17 pm

    O.M.G.!!! I made these tonight, and I think I’m going to be dreaming about them! They were the BEST! I’ve made several meatball recipes at home… and this is definitely my GO TO recipe. Thanks for an awesome meatball recipe! It’ll be in my bi-weekly rotation! 🙂

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