I have had a long-term love affair with meatballs! This is, in part, because they are THE perfect food to have in your freezer. And, in part, because I have such fond memories of making these with my kids—them all gathered around the table rolling the mixture into balls and placing them on cookie sheets to “flash freeze” as I read aloud from our favorite chapter book. Oh…the sweet memories….
But honestly, I love meatballs for way more reasons than their freeze-ability and the little faces around my table:
Meatballs have all of these amazing benefits:
~They are low carb
~They are high in protein
~They make an amazing freezer entree
~They are family-friendly
~They are crowd pleasers
~They can literally be used any time of day–chopped up in an egg skillet or messy overstuffed omelet; served on sandwiches for lunch; with a sauce and pasta or rice for dinner; sauced in a crock pot for appetizers or parties (flexible, huh?)
~They are perfect toddler food—cut in bite-sized pieces for finger food practice (I use these with my grandbabies instead of crackers or other empty calorie finger food!)
~They freeze so well in any state—shaped and frozen before cooking; frozen in bags after booking; already cooked and sauced….you really can’t go wrong!
Here are some tips about this specific meatball recipe:
1) This is new to me as of about five years ago. I used a more traditional recipe from “Make a Mix Cookery” for many years. But I branched out with this recipe I found on an Italian site—and tweaked for lower carb– a few years ago and absolutely love the moistness of it!
2) The carb count will be based on the ingredients you put into it.
- I use half ground chuck and half ground turkey. They are both zero carbs (as are most meats).
- Eggs are part of the binding—also carb free.
- The ricotta cheese carb count will be based on whether you use full fat or part skim ricotta.
- The main carbs from this recipe will be in the “crumbs.” For a run down on carb and options, see my “21 Ways to ‘Crumb’ Low Carb”!
- Most grated Parmesan is very low or no carb.
3) The freezing can take place whenever you desire. Here are a couple of freezing tips:
a. Freeze before or after baking.
b. Flash freeze on trays or cookie sheets with meatballs touching but not overlapping until firm. Remove from trays and place in bags immediately and place in freezer.
c. Once the meatballs are frozen on trays, you can put them into whatever sized bags you need for your portions. I often do a half dozen meatballs in quart bags and more in gallon bags.
d. IMPORTANT: Label your bags with RAW or FULLY COOKED. This is especially important if you have others pulling things out of the freezer to use. It can be hard to tell the state of a food once it is frozen.
e. Freeze in a sauce, if desired. While spaghetti and macaroni are not the best in the freezer (unless in a thick sauce), you can freeze the cooked meatballs in their sauce ready to defrost and heat/use.
f. When defrosting, be sure to place them in a single layer in a baking dish in the fridge. If you defrost them in the bag, they will stick together and potentially lose their shape.
This recipe makes four “batches” of twelve large meatballs per batch.
WAYS TO USE THESE MEATBALLS
I will be posting recipes using these meatballs in the future. However, I want to leave you with some ideas today!
Don’t let their “Italian-ness” (ricotta, garlic, etc.) make you feel like these are only for pasta dishes. These moist meatballs are perfect for everything!
1) Subs—Low carb hot dog buns, marinara, meatballs, cheese, onions, and peppers make perfect meatball subs!
2) BBQ, sweet and sour (chili sauce and jelly), Hawaiian, Swedish—all perfect sauces for appetizers, grad parties, meat entrees, and more!
3) Spaghetti and meatballs..of course!
4) Finger foods for littles
5) Chopped up in breakfast casseroles or skillets
6) Swedish meatballs—cream soup and served over rice
7) Meatball stroganoff—cream soup, beef base, seasonings….cook with meatballs. Add sour cream at end. Serve over rice or noodles.
8) Believe it or not, we use them as a dipper in our cheese fondue family parties!
9) Super portable food to bag for the zoo or park (already cooked).
10) Perfect as appetizers with a cheese platter and crackers
11) Don’t have any meat ready for a soup? Pull out some cooked meatballs, chop in large chunks and make vegetable meatball soup or cheeseburger potato soup!
Below are links to the ingredients I use in this recipe. I am an affiliate for Amazon.com. If you click on the links below I will earn a small commission. Thank you for your support of this blog!
DELICIOUS, LOW CARB, VERSATILE MEATBALLS! (Freezer options!)
- 5 lbs ground beef, turkey, or sausage (I use half turkey sausage and half ground chuck)
- 16 ounces low fat ricotta cheese
- 3 cups Low Carb Breading Mix (may add up to ½ cup more if needed)
- 5 cups grated Parmesan cheese
- 5 whole eggs
- 3 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
- 2 onions, medium to large (or 6 TBSP minced onion)
- 2 TBSP minced garlic
- 1 TBSP pepper
- Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix thoroughly by hand until all ingredients are incorporated and mixture is firm. Do not overmix or over handle as you want them to be tender.
- Coat hands in water or oil and form balls that are approximately the size of golf balls.
- a. You will create 48 total balls.
- b. I divide mixture into four parts then measure out 12 balls per “part” to ensure uniformity in size.
- c. (You may desire smaller meatballs and more of them if cooking for a large family or wanting to extend your meat some.)
- To flash freeze all or part:
- a. Place meatballs on jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with sides (spray with cooking spray or use parchment) barely touching and freeze uncovered for an hour or two until frozen.
- b. Place in bags labeled with cooking instructions of your choice (or ones given below).
- c. Place back in freezer immediately.
- To bake some or all now:
- a. Place 12 meatballs on jelly roll pans or cookie sheets with size and bake however many your oven will hold.
- b. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 to 20 minutes until no longer pink inside (depending on how many pounds you are baking at one time). Be sure to adjust baking time if making smaller meatballs!
- c. May freeze part and bake part.
- d. May freeze some after baking.
- Drain baked meatballs on paper toweling until cool. Use in recipes or flash freeze on cookie sheets as described above and transfer to labeled bags.
- Bag Labeling Instructions:
- a. Be sure bags are thoroughly labeled with how many pounds or many people served. .
- b. One-fourth of this recipe is a batch and is approximately 1 ¼ pound of meat and 12 very large meatballs.
- c. Each batch will serve 4 to 6 people. May obviously make meatballs smaller to go further.
- d. Also be sure bag tells what state your meatballs are in—RAW or FULLY COOKED.
- Bag Label Suggestion:
- Meatballs DATE RAW
- Thaw on pie pan in single layer for a couple of hours on the counter or all day in the fridge.
- Bake one defrosted batch for 10 to 15 minutes at 425 degrees uncovered.
- Crock pot instructions: Set cooker on low. Place 12 meatballs (1/4 of the recipe/1 “batch”) in slow cooker and cook for four hours on low. If using a sauce, add it about 30 minutes before serving.