Whole30 Meatballs & Creamy Marinara (with Hidden Veggies)

 

This Whole30 Meatballs & Creamy Marinara isn’t just quick and easy; it’s loaded with hidden veggies. The sauce, which is both creamy and delicious, is also nutrient-dense. Your family will devour this dish!

Why You Will Love My Whole30 Meatballs & Creamy Marinara

First, it’s a nutrient-dense classic remake using nourishing whole foods that will keep your family fueled and full. The sauce includes carrots and steamed cauliflower for hidden veggies, which my boys didn’t notice at all!

Second, this meal comes together from scratch in just 40 minutes, making it approachable for busy weeknights.

Third, this recipe caters to various dietary needs as it’s Whole30, Paleo, Keto, gluten-free, dairy-free, with nut-free and egg-free options.

Plus, it’s a flexible recipe. Serve it on top of sauted spiralized veggies for a Whole30 option or on your favorite store-bought noodles for a quick and easy gluten-free option. See the ingredient section below for more details on noodle options!

Ingredients for this Whole30 Meatballs & Creamy Marinara

Meatballs:
  • Ground beef  I use 85/15 ground beef for this meal. Or, for an even more tender and juicy meatball, use 1/2 pound ground beef and 1/2 pound ground pork. 
  • Egg To make these eggless, use 1/4 cup mashed potatoes instead of the egg. You can also leave out the egg and the almond flour, but the meatballs will be less tender. 
  • Dried minced onion  I find this spice in the spice of most grocery stores, like this one here at Walmart.
  • Garlic powder  Granulated garlic or garlic powder will both work well in this recipe. 
  • Salt and pepper  Regular old table salt and black ground pepper here.
  • Coconut aminos – On Whole30, soy is prohibited, as is soy sauce. However, coconut aminos are a great replacement for soy sauce and add a great depth of flavor. We can find coconut aminos at Walmart or Trader Joe’s. 
  • Almond flour  Traditional meatballs use breadcrumbs to add bulk and tenderness. We use almond flour instead! Need a nut-free option? Use 1/2 cup mashed potatoes instead. Or, you can leave out the egg and the almond flour, but the meatballs wont be as tender. 
  • Olive or avocado oil We will use a touch of this to saute the garlic.
  • Minced garlic I love using pre-minced garlic, like this one from Walmart, to save time. But mincing your own fresh garlic cloves is delicious, too. This helps keep the meatballs tender and flavorful.

Whole30 Meatballs & Creamy Marinara - Paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, with nut-free and egg-free options. Air fryer or oven for the meatballs. Hidden veggies in a sauce my kids love!

Creamy Marinara Sauce:
  • Ghee or vegan butter Ghee is clarified butter with the milkfat solids removed. It works for many who are sensitive to dairy and is allowed on Whole30. But if you have a dairy allergy, ghee won’t work for you, and I recommend vegan butter like Miyokos instead. You can also substitute olive or olive oil for the ghee in this recipe.
  • Onion – Yellow, white, or sweet onion work equally well here. 
  • GarlicI buy my garlic pre-minced, like this one from Walmart, to save time. But my brother finds that appalling, and you can always mince your own garlic cloves, should you prefer.
  • Canned tomatoes – Canned tomatoes go from farm to field in an incredibly short amount of time and are still very nutritious. Plus, no chopping from you is required! This mixture will be blended, so whether you used diced or petite diced doesn’t matter.
  • Fresh or frozen riced cauliflowerI usually use frozen, as it’s easy to always have on hand and doesn’t go bad in my produce drawer. If using frozen, there’s no need to thawit goes straight from the freezer to the pot.
  • Carrots – You can use a large whole carrot or one heaping cup of baby carrots. The carrots add nutrients to this sauce AND help make the sauce less acidic.
  • Tomato paste – This will add tomato flavor while keeping the sauce thick. You can use an 8oz can of tomato sauce instead if that’s all you have on hand, but keep in mind your sauce will be thinner.
  • Chicken broth or bone broth – Whichever is more accessible for you! Bone broth adds extra protein and nutrients but can be hard to find. 
  • Salt – Regular table salt works great!
  • Fresh or dried basilFresh basil is always more flavorful, but it can be hard to find or pricey. For that reason, I often just use dried basil.
  • Canned, unsweetened, full-fat Coconut Milk – THE best dairy-free replacement for dairy cream, as it has a thick, creamy consistency and higher fat content than other dairy-free milk. You can substitute another dairy-free milk, if needed, but the result won’t be as rich or thick. 

Whole30 Meatballs & Creamy Marinara - Paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, with nut-free and egg-free options. Air fryer or oven for the meatballs. Hidden veggies in a sauce my kids love!

To Make This Recipe

  • Start by making the sauce. Add ghee to a large sauce pan or pot over medium heat. Once melted, add the onion and garlic. Saute for 4-5 minutes, until the onion is translucent.
  • Add all other sauce ingredients to the pan, except for dried basil (if using. If using fresh basil, add it now) and coconut milk. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes, stirring regularly, or until carrots and cauliflower are tender. Remove from heat.
  • While sauce is simmering, make the meatballs. If cooking the meatballs in the oven, turn on your oven to broil (high). Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a baking rack inside it (like this one), if you have one. 
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine all of the meatball ingredients, being careful not to over-mix. The more you mix the meatballs, the less tender they will be!
  • Shape into 20 1-tablespoon meatballs, trying to keep the sizes even as much as possible so they will cook at the same rate. I use a cookie scoop like this one to make that easier. 
  • OVEN: Place all meatballs on the baking rack or lined baking sheet, spacing at least 1 apart. Broil for 10 minutes, or until browned, flip, and then broil for another 3 minutes or until cooked through.
  • AIR FRYER: Place meatballs in a single layer in air fryer basket. You may need to do this in two batches. Air fry at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until browned and cooked through.
  • While meatballs are cooking, once sauce is done, add sauce carefully to a blender. Blend the sauce on high until desired smoothness. The higher powered your blender, the smoother this can get. 
  • Serve on top of noodles of choice.
    • If on a Whole30, only spiralized veggie “noodles” are allowed. I love this spiralizer and prefer potato (pictured) or sweet potato “noodles”. I saute them in a large pan with 2 tablespoons oil for about 10 minutes, stirring reguarly, until potatoes are tender. 
    • If you just need a gluten-free noodle option, Banza is my favorite! Great taste and loaded with chickpea protein to help get extra protein in. 

Whole30 Meatballs & Creamy Marinara - Paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, with nut-free and egg-free options. Air fryer or oven for the meatballs. Hidden veggies in a sauce my kids love!

Whole30 Meatballs & Creamy Marinara

Autumn @wholefoodfor7

A veggie-loaded Whole30 version of a classic, with a creamy homemade marinara you will love!

Prep Time 15 minutes

Cook Time 25 minutes

Total Time 40 minutes

Course Main Course

Cuisine Italian

Servings 6 people

Calories 414 kcal

1/2x1x2x3x

Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground beef can also use 1/2 lb ground beef + 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 c almond flour see notes for nut-free
  • 1 large egg see notes from egg-free
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Creamy Marinara

  • 2 tablespoons ghee or vegan butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow or white onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen riced cauliflower
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped or 1 heaping cup baby carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth or bone broth
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 cups full-fat unsweetened canned coconut milk *see notes
  • Start with making the sauce. In a large sauce pan or pot over medium heat, add ghee. Once melted, add the onion and garlic. Saute for 4-5 minutes, until onion is translucent.

  • Add all other sauce ingredients to the pan, except for dried basil (if using. If using fresh basil, add it now) and coconut milk. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes, stirring regularly, or until carrots and cauliflower are tender. Remove from heat.

  • While sauce is simmering, make the meatballs.If cooking the meatballs in the oven, turn on your oven to broil (high) and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a baking rack inside it (like this one), if you have one.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine all of the meatball ingredients, being careful not to over-mix. The more you mix the meatballs, the less tender they will be!

  • Shape into 20 1-tablespoon meatballs, trying to keep the sizes even as much as possible so they will cook at the same rate. I usea cookie scoop like this oneto make that easier.
  • OVEN: Place all meatballs on the baking rack or lined baking sheet, spacing at least 1 apart. Broil for 10 minutes, or until browned, flip, and then broil for another 3 minutes or until cooked through.

  • AIR FRYER: Place meatballs in a single layer in air fryer basket. You may need to do this in two batches. Air fry at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until browned and cooked through.

  • While meatballs are cooking, once sauce is done, add sauce carefully to a blender. Blend the sauce on high until desired smoothness. The higher powered your blender, the smoother this can get.

  • Serve on top of noodles of choice. If on a Whole30, only spiralized veggie “noodles” are allowed. I love this spiralizer and prefer potato (pictured) or sweet potato “noodles”. I saute them in a large pan with 2 tablespoons oil for about 10 minutes, stirring reguarly, until potatoes are tender.If you just need a gluten-free noodle option, Banza is my favorite! Great taste and loaded with chickpea protein to help get extra protein in.
  • FREEZE leftover sauce and meatballs in a sealed container for up to 3 months.

To make the meatballs:

  • EGG-FREE: Use 1/4 cup mashed potatoes instead of the egg. You can also leave out the egg and the almond flour, but the meatballs will be less tender.
  • NUT-FREE: Use 1/2 cup mashed potatoes instead. Or, you can leave out the egg and the almond flour, but the meatballs wont be as tender.

You can also use another dairy-free milk instead of coconut milk, but the result will be thinner and less rich.
TIME-SAVER: In a rush? Cook the ground beef in crumbles to serve with the sauce, skipping the meatballs. It’s still a great protein source with less prep time!

Calories: 414kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 20gFat: 34gSaturated Fat: 19gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 96mgSodium: 609mgPotassium: 580mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 2059IUVitamin C: 23mgCalcium: 84mgIron: 5mg

Keyword budget-friendly, dairy-free, easy, egg-free, gluten-free, keto, kid-friendly, main dish, nut-free, paleo, whole30

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