Homemade Meatballs and Marinara – Day 11 Grain Free Challenge

Sunday we loaded the kids in the car and drove out of the desert to the beautiful Apricot Lane Farms. My dear friend Molly and her husband John run the farm. They were hosting a party for everyone to gather and enjoy some California sunshine. The kids swam, ran through the gardens and orchards and made googly eyes at the goats, sheep, and puppies. Grass-fed hamburgers and all-beef hot dogs were grilled and served alongside fresh vegetables, great salads, and washed down with Molly’s homemade raw honey lemonade.

Just before leaving, Molly pointed to some baskets overflowing with heirloom tomatoes, handed me a bag and told me to take as many as I wanted. My heart leapt a little.

Some of the tiny tomatoes were so cute, I actually kissed a few of them. Today I spent time cooking up homemade marinara. The house smelled of garlic and fresh tomatoes. I made some meatballs (without bread crumbs) and simmered them in the sauce until tender. I served it alongside blanched green beans with butter and sprinkled Pecorino Romano cheese. I’m beginning to realize living grain free can be pretty darned delicious!

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Homemade Meatballs and Marinara

Serving Size: Serves 6

Homemade Meatballs and Marinara


    For the marinara:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 4 large tomatoes, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • For the meatballs:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 1/4 cup shredded Pecorino Romano cheese

  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup shredded basil leaves


Place garlic and olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Cook until garlic begins to sizzle and is fragrant. Add tomatoes and salt. Simmer sauce for 10 minutes.

Place beef, tomato paste, 1 cup cheese, seasoning, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Using your hands, massage the meat until ingredients are incorporated. Form meat into golf-size balls and place on a large baking sheet. When all of the meatballs have been formed, place the meatballs into the simmering sauce. Cook for about 10 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through. Top with basil and remaining cheese. Serve immediately.

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  1. This looks so good! I didn’t join the grain free challenge, but am reading the book Wheat Belly. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing great recipes and inspiration! Also, that raw honey lemonade sounds delicious…might Molly be willing to share her recipe?

  2. Stacie

    Too funny. This is what we have on our list for tomorrow, only served with spaghetti squash (and a side of homemade pesto). I was looking around today to see if there was a problem making the meatballs without bread crumbs – you made it easy on me! Thank you!

  3. Karen

    Carrie – I saw your picture for Almond Pancakes on facebook with “recipe to follow” comment. I can’t wait! Please post today so I can make tomorrow :o). I was thinking about that this morning, my son loves Saturday morning pancakes and I would love not to disappoint.

  4. Nikki

    I just found your blog today, and couldn’t help but make this recipe tonight. It was absolutely delicious!

    There are several other recipes I can’t wait to try. I really love your approach to organic, whole foods and cooking delicious meals. You’re very informed, and still very easy to relate to. I’m thrilled to have found your blog!

  5. Jodi

    Tried the recipe tonight and it was very good. Served it over spaghetti squash. Don’t know if I misread something when cooking the meatballs in the tomato mixture, but it made the sauce really greasy by doing so. I think next time I would just bake the meatballs in the oven and then throw them in the sauce. Did anyone else have this problem? Carrie, I love your website and find your recipes simple, but so good! (And helpful). Thank you!

    • Deliciously Organic

      I’ve made this recipe numerous times and I’ve never had that problem. Hmm…it could be the amount of fat in your ground beef. That’s about the only thing I can think of. I use ground beef that is straight from the farm so I don’t really know the percentage of fat in the beef I use. Baking them in the oven will work nicely too for the next time and will remove the chances of the fat getting in the sauce. Isn’t it so good over spaghetti squash?! I was skeptical at first, but I love it!

  6. Bethany

    Dear Carrie,

    I made this last night for my husband and sister. They loved it! My sister said, “It’s so flavorful!” My husband said, “It tastes like you really knew what you were doing with all of the flavors and knew just how much to add of each ingredient.” (Hahaha – that doesn’t sound as sweet in type as it did coming out of his mouth. He ate it up!) On a side note…I didn’t have as many fresh tomatoes as needed, so I added half a can of Muir Glen whole tomatoes with juice to the mix…next time, I’ll have all fresh tomatoes. It was nice to find a recipe that I already had all (almost all) of the ingredients for that tasted gourmet! I’m going grain free, and we were all surprised by how delicious this was without our normal quinoa pasta.

    Thanks for being healthy!

  7. Emily

    I made this tonight – my husband and I actually just finished eating & cleaning up and I had to immediately hop on the computer to THANK you for posting this recipe. Delicious! Wow! What more can I say! It’s packed with so much flavor, especially from the pecorino romano. I don’t think I’ve ever cooked with pecorino romano before but let’s just say I am totally smitten with it now!

    I made this with 1lb of organic bison meat (ended up with 16 meatballs) and served it over spaghetti squash with a side of zucchini (must have been in a squash mood!). I ate 4 meatballs and am totally stuffed!! I knew I should have stopped at 3 but I couldn’t help myself. I can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow. :)

    Thanks again! This is the first of your recipes that I’ve tried and can’t wait to try more! I actually have the chia seed pudding bookmarked.

  8. Annie

    This is the second time I’ve made these! So good! I have a favorite sauce I make that has garlic, onions, zuchini, bell peppers and mushrooms and of course tomatoes! Made a huge batch to freeze portions for busy weeknight meals. My family is not grain free yet – but I’m working on it! At least I can have some delicious sauce and meatballs with a salad and the rest can have pasta. Thanks for your great recipies!

  9. I just had to come over and say how delicious this looks! I need to make this soon 😉 have been buying organic produce lately ( replacing a little of our diet here and there). Call me crazy, but it seems like the flavors are more rich!

  10. Kristy Hawkins

    I’m making this for dinner tonight. It’s actually simmering on the stove right now and smells heavenly! I had about 5 regular organic tomatoes and a large skillet so it was not enough to really make a sauce. I actually mixed the remaining can of my tomatoe paste and mixed with a really good red wine and added it to the marinara. It helped make more sauce and added a delicious hint of red wine :) I’m serving with shredded zuchinni noodles and some gluten free noodles for the kiddos. Thank you for sharing your wonderful talent and recipes with us!!!

  11. mci4558

    Wow!! So fresh and absolutely delicious… Highly recommend this recipe. I used 90% lean grass fed beef, and organic vine ripe tomatoes. All the ingredients I used were organic.. Made for a scrumptious meal.

  12. jennifer

    This sounds so good but is there an appropriate substitute for the cheese? It is the only thing holding me back from making these as I have to eat dairy free. Thank you!! (Just had your Pad Thai for dinner for the first time and it was delish! Thank you for a great meal!).

    • Deliciously Organic

      You can make the meatballs and marinara (fully cooked) and store in the fridge. I would bake the squash, spoon the flesh out with a spoon and store in the fridge. Then you can either heat it all up on the stove or the oven (I prefer the oven b/c I can put it in and forget about it until it’s ready). :) Let me know if that helps!


  1. […] Homemade Meatballs and Marinara Recipe – Day 11 Grain-Free … – The house smelled of garlic and fresh tomatoes. I made some meatballs (without bread crumbs) and simmered them in the sauce until tender. I served it alongside blanched green beans with butter and sprinkled Pecorino Romano cheese. I’m beginning to realize living grain free can be … […]

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