Every so often, the taste tester and I attempt to do a “carb cycle” that involves completely eliminating carbs for 1-2 days, eating moderate carbs for a few days, and then loading up on carbs on a treat day. This is usually some attempt to lose weight quickly or at least appear thinner in photos. It almost never works, mostly because it is almost impossible to eat zero carbs in a day. It is 1000x easier to just maintain a routine of healthy eating than to attempt to lose weight by crash dieting. However, the one plus of this experiment is that it does get me thinking about ingredients in food.
Mainly, I realize how many things have carbs/bread that really don’t need them. One of those things is meatballs. Almost every recipe I have ever seen for meatballs involves using breadcrumbs. Why? They seemed completely unnecessary to me. So, this recipe was born of an experiment to make carb-free meatballs.
I have to be honest, I was surprised at their deliciousness. I have never been a huge meatball fan to begin with and I absolutely expected the turkey to be dry and bland. The moisture from the vegetables helps the meat stay tender and packs an additional serving of veggies into your meal. Feel free to modify as you see fit, you could sub a different type of cheese or pepper, but do not omit the mushrooms. The mushrooms are key to preserving the texture and I promise if you cut them really tiny all the mushroom haters won’t even notice they are there!
I served mine with traditional red sauce (from a jar) and tons of spaghetti squash! You could top with any sauce you prefer, BBQ would be just as tasty. These would be great with any type of pasta, on a sandwich, or plain!
- ½ green pepper
- 3 mushrooms, stems removed (I used mini bella)
- 1 cup, tightly packed spinach
- ⅓ c. parmesan cheese, shredded
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 lb. extra lean ground turkey
- 1 t. parsley (dried)
- ⅓ t. oregano
- ¼ t. rosemary
- Olive oil, for sautéing
- Optional: red sauce, for serving.
- Cut green pepper, mushrooms, and spinach into teeny, tiny pieces. I have not tried this using my food processor, but I think it would be useful here. It is not necessary, but it is important that the veggies are very small or your meatballs will not bind together properly. When chopped, place all veggies in a large bowl.
- Add the cheese and eggs, stir to combine.
- Add the turkey and mix until very well combined. I find it most effective to use a fork and sort of press all the ingredients together. Again, I suspect that this could all be done in a food processor.
- Add spices and combine.
- When ready to cook, heat olive oil in a large skillet. I use a large, stainless steel skillet. Add several swirls of olive oil to coat the pan, but not enough so that it pools. You don't want the meatballs "swimming" in the oil. You want your skillet hot so that the meatballs get a nice sear. My stove goes from 1-10 and I heat mine to an 8 to start (about 3-4 minutes), then lower to 6 to finish. **Update: I just made these again and cooked at 7 the whole time with perfect results!
- When the pan is hot, form meat into balls by placing about 1 T in your hand and forming into a ball. There is really no way to do this without handling raw meat by hand, but if it really grossed you out, wear gloves.
- Place each meatball in the pan, making sure you swirl it in the olive oil before releasing. If you don't "swirl" the meatball in the oil, it will stick to the pan because of the very low fat content in the turkey. If it sticks to the pan, it will still taste fine but will likely lose its ball shape. Add more oil to the pan as needed.
- Cook each meatball on medium-high (8/10) for 3-4 minutes, until the outside is browned. Lower heat to medium (6/10) until the meatballs are cooked through. If doing in batches, make sure to heat the skillet back up before you put the second batch in.
- Very important: Do not overcrowd the pan. Your meatballs need room to breathe and you need to be able to flip them over easily. I use a large pan and cook mine in two batches.
- If using red sauce, heat the sauce in a large saucepan while the meatballs are cooking. When the first batch of meatballs is finished, place into the sauce to warm.