Grain-free meatballs is a welcome, warming classic when you need warming meals to see you through the last chills of winter. If you eat grain-free or are reducing grains in your diet, try these grain-free meatballs. They are bound with raw grated zucchini and flaxseed instead of breadcrumbs. Top with your favorite store brand of marinara or make this quick sauce. Serve over zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, steamed kale ribbons, or cauliflower puree.
A food processor makes easy work of mixing the meat, vegetables and flaxseed. Chop the zucchini into chunks and pulse until fine. Place zucchini onto several layers of paper towels and squeeze out the moisture, then add back to the food processor. Add everything else and pulse to combine.
Grated zucchini, ground flaxseed and an egg hold the mixture together while keeping the meatballs moist and tender. Use your choice of ground meat: beef, bison, dark turkey, or a combination. I often use a combination of beef and turkey. For beef, choose organic or grass-fed with 10% fat and for turkey, I prefer organic dark meat.
Tools That Make Meatballs Easy
A cool little tool called a disher in the 2050 size (see here) make the meatballs fast and easy to portion and consistent in size. To make meatballs without a disher, use a 1-tablespoon measure. Portion the meatballs onto a parchment or wax paper lined rimmed baking sheet, then roll them by hand into balls.
To keep your hands cleaner when working with raw meat and other messy ingredients, use disposable kitchen gloves. It’s something I always have in my kitchen. Disposable gloves are handy for other household tasks and crafts too.
To finish the meatballs, brown them in olive oil, top with marinara and either simmer on the stove top or place them in a casserole dish, cover with sauce, foil and bake until done. Serve hot with a sprinkle of Parmesan (optional) and add a tossed green salad for balance.
If you have extras, grain free meatballs freeze well. You can freeze them in portions with the sauce. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then heat through on the stovetop in sauce. You could even make a double batch and freeze them for future dinners.
- 1 small zucchini coarsely chopped
- 1 pound lean ground beef or dark meat turkey
- 1 small shallot finely chopped, 1/3 cup
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb mix
- 1 teaspoons anise seed or fennel seed optional
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper or Aleppo pepper flakes optional
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 4-5 cups your favorite marinara see quick sauce recipe on this site
- Place the zucchini chunks in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Spoon zucchini into layers of paper towels and squeeze out the moisture. Put it back in the food processor. Add the meat, shallot, garlic, flaxseed, egg, herbs, salt and pepper. Pulse until the combination is well blended, about 12 times. The meatball mixture will be soft.
- Cover a rimmed baking sheet or cookie sheet with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Use a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon or a #50 disher (see note below) to portion out the meatball mixture and roll into balls. Meatballs will be about the size of small golf balls. You should get approximately 32 meatballs.
- Add the oil to a large non-stick sauté or frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs. Cook until the meatballs are browned on one side, 2-3 minutes. Roll them over to the other side to brown. Pour in the sauce, bring to a simmer, cover and turn heat to low. Cook for 15-18 minutes, until no longer pink in the center. Serve meatballs hot, or cool completely to refrigerate or freeze.