A low carb take on one of my grandma’s recipes, these tomato braised meatballs are spiced with a Mediterranean-inspired blend of spices that gives them a unique flavor profile that is both exotic and comforting.
This recipe originated as my Grandma’s recipe for Porcupine Meatballs. If you’re not familiar with porcupine meatballs, they do not contain any porcupine, but are called that because the meat is mixed with uncooked rice, and after simmering the rice becomes spiky like porcupine quills.
I remember eating these all the time at my grandma’s house growing up, and while the spiky aspect was fun for me as a child, I have always loved the flavor of these meatballs.
In switching to a ketogenic diet, I gave up rice. But in an effort to find more simple and delicious meals to make on a weeknight, I scoured my memory for things we used to make and I remembered these meatballs.
I tried once to use riced cauliflower to make them more “porcupine-like” but it didn’t really give a particularly spiky effect and was another, unnecessary step. So I stuck with making meatballs that gave me all the familiar, comforting flavors I remembered, without the carbs.
Oh, and the best part? Since we’re not having to cook the rice, the cook time is cut in half!
Tomato Braised Meatballs
The spices in this meatball that make up its unique flavor profile are celery seed, oregano, and cinnamon.
These remind me of mediterranean cooking, although they’re missing some of the other typical spices like cumin or coriander. I have no idea where this recipe originated, but it definitely stands out from my grandma’s otherwise quintessential midwestern recipes.
Additionally, we use some almond flour and flax meal to give the meatballs some extra tenderness.
After the meatballs brown, they’re simmered in tomato sauce. The sauce itself stays simple, but takes on some of the flavors of the meatballs as it cooks.
The original recipe uses tomato juice because of the need for extra liquid to cook the rice. But since we’re not using rice, tomato sauce is the perfect consistency here.
After you add the sauce, cover and simmer. And that’s it. Mix meatballs, brown, then simmer. It’s so simple and once it’s simmering you barely have to check on it. Perfect for a weeknight meal.
A sprinkling of parsley is a nice touch, but fancier than my grandma’s homey cooking.
At my grandma’s house, porcupine meatballs were always served over boiled potatoes.
Here, I like them over mashed cauliflower. It makes for a lovely texture against the meatballs.
These meatballs are tender and comforting and just perfect for a busy weeknight when you need a hearty meal without much effort.
- Combine all ingredients except oil and tomato sauce.
- Roll meat mixture into balls.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown meatballs on each side (about 5 minutes). Drain off excess oil.
- Add tomato sauce, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover.
- Simmer 20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 356 Total Fat: 27.5g Saturated Fat: 8.4g Sodium: 607mg Carbohydrates: 6.8g Net Carbohydrates: 3.8g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 3g Protein: 20.9g