Homemade Meatballs and Marinara – Day 11 Grain Free Challenge

by Deliciously Organic on September 20, 2011

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!

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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{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica September 20, 2011 at 11:11 am

You had me at grain free! This looks wonderful!


Michael October 19, 2011 at 10:52 am

Wow this is terrible why would You want to cut grains out of your Diet. Especially whole grains


Deliciously Organic October 20, 2011 at 7:57 am
Sandra September 20, 2011 at 11:13 am

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?


Deliciously Organic September 20, 2011 at 11:18 am

I’ll have to ask her!


Dawn September 20, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Molly has the recipe on her blog, Organic Spark! Yummy!!


Dawn September 20, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Oh- now that I read a little further I see that she posted the link :)


Lisa C. September 20, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Yes, lease ask Molly for her lemonade recipe, sounds delicious!


Michelle September 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I just want to make sure that the meatballs are cooked in the sauce and not in the oven first. Is that correct? (I’m hoping so, because it would be so much easier!)


Deliciously Organic September 20, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Yes, the meatballs are cooked in the sauce – not in the oven. It makes it all so easy!


Molly Chester September 20, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Hey Carrie! This looks so good. I might have to go pick some heirlooms to make this myself! As for the Raw Honey Lemonade, here’s the link! It’s best served over ice… http://www.organicspark.com/portfolio/raw-honey-lemonade/ Enjoy! And thanks for the great recipe…


Deliciously Organic September 20, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Thanks for the link!


Sandra September 21, 2011 at 6:54 am

Thank you!


marla {family fresh cooking} September 20, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Sounds like a super FUN time at the farm. Such a delicious sauce & meatballs recipe :)


Bev Weidner September 20, 2011 at 1:19 pm

LOOK at those meatballs. I mean, just LOOK AT THEM.

I could cry myself to sleep now.


HeatherChristo September 20, 2011 at 1:39 pm

OMG. this is drool worthy right now, and you have just sparked a craving of epic proportions. I am sure that this is so delicious all on it’s own, but I might have to sneak some spaghetti in too!


Gail September 20, 2011 at 2:29 pm

YuuuUUUm! Beautiful tomatoes too!!


Nancy@acommunaltable September 20, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Those tomatoes are drop dead gorgeous and I am sure the sauce is amazing. Sounds like a wonderful day too!!


Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen September 20, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Those tomatoes are gorgeous, I would have been giddy to receive them as well!


Rebecca September 20, 2011 at 4:22 pm

This sounds perfect for a meal on the Belly-Fat Cure diet I’ve been following! Thanks! Running off to see if there’s still garden tomatoes for supper tomorrow night…


Stacie September 20, 2011 at 5:17 pm

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!


Katrina September 21, 2011 at 4:54 am

This is just lovely!


Noelle (@singerinkitchen) September 21, 2011 at 6:15 am

Looks delicious. Those tomatoes are beautiful!


Erika September 21, 2011 at 8:25 am

Yum!!!! Definitely one to try.

Glad you had such a good time at the farm. I’m excited to try the lemonade recipe of Molly’s too.


Carrie | Eastbay Coupon Codes September 21, 2011 at 12:02 pm

This looks amazing! I will be trying this one! Thanks!


Cookin' Canuck September 21, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Those tomatoes are so pretty – so much better than the ones you see at the supermarket. It sounds as though you had a lovely day at the farm and this dish is something I would be proud to serve my family.


Jeanie September 22, 2011 at 11:35 am

Maybe a silly question, but do you peel the tomatoes first?


Deliciously Organic September 22, 2011 at 5:07 pm

You can if you want, but there’s no need to. :)


Georgia Pellegrini September 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Lucky you! I love beautiful tomatoes. And I ADORE meatballs. I’m so enjoying reading about your grain free challenge. Very inspiring.


Carolyn September 22, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I’ve used coconut flour before in meatloaf. Works quite well. These look delicious!


aida mollenkamp September 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Carrie: So much respect that you’ve gone so long without grains — and, you’re right — it does sounds delicious!


Karin September 22, 2011 at 2:57 pm

This would taste awesome served over spaghetti squash!!


Karen September 23, 2011 at 9:08 am

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.


Kristi Rimkus September 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm

How lucky are you to have heirloom tomatoes given to you! I’m drooling just looking at them! What a fun day too. :)


thlay101 September 26, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Just made these, so good! Super easy to make. I didn’t have basil, but will add that if I do next time. I’m going to serve it over spinach.


Deliciously Organic September 26, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Thanks for the feedback! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!


Nikki September 27, 2011 at 5:52 pm

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!


Andrea September 28, 2011 at 1:15 pm

I made this last night. It was very good. I served it with fresh greens.


Jodi November 28, 2011 at 6:10 pm

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 November 29, 2011 at 6:34 am

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!


Rach (DonutsMama) February 17, 2012 at 5:47 pm

I made this tonight for the second time and my husband really liked it. I love being able to make meals from fresh, whole ingredients. Thank you.


Justine February 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Hello, I was wondering if these could be done in the crock pot? Just put all ingredients in and put on high or low until meat is cooked?


Deliciously Organic February 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I think that would work. I’d try low heat. Let me know how it turns out!


Kim | At Home With Kim April 12, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Hi Carrie! I LOVE your site and am finding it SO helpful as I make my way toward a clean eating lifestyle for my family and I. I made these meatballs tonight for my family and they were a huge hit!!! Thanks.


Bethany July 18, 2012 at 6:53 am

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!


Deliciously Organic July 18, 2012 at 7:59 am

Haha! Thanks for sharing. I’m so glad you all enjoyed it! :)


Bethany July 18, 2012 at 6:55 am

One more thing… if anyone doubts the benefits of going grain free… check out http://mariahealth.blogspot.com/ – I am reading Maria Emmerich’s book, Secrets to a Healthy Metabolism – and it is eye opening!


Valerie August 6, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I made these the other day and it came out so delicious! One of the best dishes we’ve had since going all natural. Thank you for the recipe!


Emily August 6, 2012 at 5:49 pm

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.


Deliciously Organic August 7, 2012 at 7:41 am

Thank you for the feedback! I’m so glad you all enjoyed the recipe. I haven’t tried it with bison…great idea!


Annie October 7, 2012 at 9:17 pm

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!


Deliciously Organic October 8, 2012 at 10:56 am

You’re welcome. I’m glad you all enjoyed them!


Susie October 9, 2012 at 5:55 pm

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!


Lynn October 9, 2012 at 6:46 pm

This looks lovely. I feel like this is a silly question…did you just serve the meatballs on their own?


Lynn October 10, 2012 at 7:27 am

Sorry about my post…just read the answer!


Amanda December 14, 2012 at 12:19 am

Could canned organic tomatoes be used instead of the fresh?


Deliciously Organic December 14, 2012 at 6:08 am

Yes. You can substitute the fresh tomatoes for a 28-ounce can/jar of crushed tomatoes.


Kristy Hawkins January 10, 2013 at 3:43 pm

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!!!


mci4558 March 24, 2013 at 9:45 pm

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.


Healthy Notions, LLC. September 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Thanks for the great recipe ~ We will be trying this over the weekend as we were looking for a nice organic marinara & meatball recipe. :)


jennifer May 16, 2014 at 7:41 pm

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 May 19, 2014 at 8:04 am

You can omit the cheese and they will turn out just fine. :)


Michelle May 20, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Hi Carrie – What are the instructions if I want to make this ahead of time with squash noodles? Not sure about squash noodle prep. Thanks :)


Deliciously Organic May 21, 2014 at 10:18 am

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!


Sharon August 16, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Can I use grated parmesan or shredded mozerella cheese instead of the romano as I don’t have any right now and would like to make this for dinner tonight.


Deliciously Organic August 16, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Parmesan makes for a great substitute.


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