Naomi’s “Popeye” Meatballs
True confession time! I never took the time to make meatballs until two things happened in January 2017. My husband and I committed to the Whole30 Diet for the month, AND I started cooking for two families that requested meatballs rather than meat sauce. I was always intimidated by what I thought had to be a complicated recipe, using a bunch of high-carb, processed fillers (think oatmeal; cracker crumbs; plain white flour, etc).
Once we started doing “Food Prep Sundays” in our house on the Whole30 plan, I realized just how healthy – and TASTY — meatballs could be, and now I always have homemade meatballs in the freezer for a quick go-to supper! I started with a recipe from Melissa Hartwig’s Whole30 Cookbook (the “Bible” for those on the Whole30 plan!) but of course, I had to make some improvements and make it my own! What I’ve ended up with is a delicious, never dry meatball that sticks together – with no eggs OR fillers!! – and is packed with the extra power of spinach. It’s chopped up fine so picky eaters won’t spot it easily… Hey, I will take my greens where ever I can fit them into my meals! I wish I had known some of these tricks when I was cooking for my kids.
These meatballs might just make the regular dinner rotation in your house too, and one batch can feed your family 3-4 meals with a lot of versatility.
2 pounds grass-fed ground beef
2 pounds pastured ground pork (just plain pork, not bulk pork sausage)
4-6 ounces of fresh baby spinach leaves
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
4-8 cloves garlic depending on your taste, peeled (you can also use chopped garlic from a jar)
1/4 cup warm water
2 tsp. salt (I use Redmond Real Salt™ or Pink Himalayan Salt for cooking and on the table)
1 tsp. fine ground black pepper
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tartar (the cream of tartar and baking soda combo creates meatballs that are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside… A pretty magical meatball combo!)
In a food processor, combine the warm water spinach, garlic, and onion. Pulse on high until it is all finely chopped. Add all the seasonings to this mixture and pulse again to mix well.
In a large bowl, place your thawed ground beef and pork. Add the veggie-seasoning mixture. Incorporate into the ground meat by hand. Don’t overmix. **
**Making meatballs or meatloaf is ALWAYS, in my opinion, a “hands-on” experience. There is just no good way to blend meat mixtures than digging right in! If you don’t like the feel of the meat, wear kitchen gloves – but trust me that mixing with a spoon is not going to give you the same results. **
Once your mixture is formed, preheat the oven to 425◦F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Forming the meatballs: A 1-inch cookie dough or ice cream scoop makes the job go faster, and makes the meatballs more uniform in size. Keep a small bowl of cool water nearby to dip the scoop or your hands into to keep the meat from sticking to them. I usually just form mine by hand and they look a little more “rustic.”
Place the formed meatballs (this recipe makes 80-84 1-inch meatballs) on the prepared baking sheets, and bake for about 20 minutes. Halfway through baking, turn the meatballs on the pans carefully so that they brown all the way around, and rotate the pans front to back and top to bottom in the oven. Once they are fully browned, remove and let cool.
Divide into 3-4 portions. Some ideas for use are Italian Meatball Soup; meatball subs; or as an appetizer with your favorite dipping sauce. Store in airtight containers or freezer bags. They can stay in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. If frozen, thaw the meatballs in the fridge before using. I have also had good results with freezing the meatballs raw on baking sheets, then storing in a freezer bag. Either already cooked or raw, this is a great way to be able to take out only as many meatballs as you need for any given meal. I like to cook the raw frozen meatballs right in pasta sauce in the slow cooker to really get a juicy, tasty meatball with flavor cooked right in.
If you are looking for a huge variety of great-tasting meatball ideas, go to “Melissa Joulwan Meatballs” and be prepared to be AMAZED at the number of recipes she has created! I highly recommend her cookbooks, especially “Well Fed Weeknights: Complete Paleo Meals in 45 Minutes or Less”. It is full of ideas for batch cooking and food prepping that will make weeknight meals a breeze to prepare with tons of variety! Bon Appetit!