Beef Meatballs

Ben is on a fairly strict elimination diet right now, and most recipes with more than a handful of ingredients require some creative substitution.

Fortunately, there are loads of good options, and thanks to the internet + Google, it’s not hard to find them.

For this recipe, I made a whole bunch of substitutions and omissions. Instead of traditional ricotta, I used cashew ricotta (I wouldn’t eat it on its own, but it’s great in recipes like this one!). Instead of the eggs, I used a half-cup of aquafaba. I used homemade (dairy-free) bread for the bread crumbs. I skipped the oregano, red pepper, and fennel (though I think they’d be tastier with them, particularly the fennel). Finally, I left off the marinara sauce, and after the first 2o minutes, just flipped over all the meatballs to keep the tops from getting too dry.

As an aside, I used a baster to suck up all the fat and broth that accumulated in the pan, and transfer it to a wide-mouth Mason jar. I refrigerated it and then scraped the (rather substantial amount of) fat (a.k.a. “tallow”) off the top to use in other cooking applications. I wouldn’t always go to that effort, but since beef (and chicken) are on the “can eat” list, and butter isn’t, it’s a decent way to get saturated fat for pan frying, etc.

Beef Meatballs


  • 2 pounds 80% lean ground beef
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese or cashew ricotta
  • 2 large eggs or 1/2 cup aquafaba
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 4 cups marinara sauce


  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or oil. Set aside.

  2. Combine all ingredients except the marinara sauce in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.

  3. Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, lining them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another.

  4. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. The internal temperature of the meatballs should be 165°F.

  5. While the meatballs are roasting, heat the marinara sauce in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often.

  6. When the meatballs are firm and fully cooked, remove them from the oven and drain the excess grease from the pan. Pour the marinara sauce over them. Return the meatballs to the oven and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Adapted from Epicurious.

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