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