Saturday, January 4, 2014

Chicken Meatballs with Garlic Kale Marinara (Whole30 Day 4)

I've always been more of a baker than a cook, but I'm working hard to change that, especially since starting my Whole30.  It's exciting to try lots of different meats in lots of different forms.  Yesterday I made pork belly (you can see the before & after pics on Instagram--it was good, but not quite good enough to share with you!).  Today I used ground chicken to make meatballs.  I am so happy with the way this dish turned out--it's one of the best savory recipes I've made!  The meatballs are moist and rich, and the sauce provides the perfect level of tart tomato and roasted garlic flavor.

There are also TWO sneaky veggies in this recipe!  As you can probably guess from the title, one of them is kale.  It adds bulk, color, and texture to the sauce, but you won't really taste it.  The other one is zucchini, which is grated into the meatballs.  You won't taste that either, but it helps the meatballs stay nice and moist (sorry, I said "moist" again...there's a limit, I know!).  Don't get me wrong--I'm definitely not against veggies you can taste.  I'm just saying this might be a good recipe to use to fool your veggie-suspicious child or significant other into eating some kale & zucchini.

Also, I made a New Year's resolution to eat more vegetables, and not to let any of the vegetables I buy go bad in the fridge.  So when I opened up the hydrator and saw one lonely zucchini and four leaves of kale, I knew they were destined to make these meatballs and sauce shine.

Sneaky veggies FTW!

Chicken Meatballs with Garlic Kale Marinara
Yield: 3-4 entree or 5-6 appetizer servings (about 20 meatballs and 2 cups sauce)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour


For the garlic kale marinara:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled, and halved if large*
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
3-5 kale leaves, stems removed and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon coconut milk (optional, for a slightly richer sauce)

For the meatballs:

1 medium zucchini, grated
1 shallot, grated
1 clove of garlic, grated (I used one of the cloves from the head I peeled for the sauce)
1 pound ground chicken
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for salting the zucchini
Fresh ground pepper to taste

*Check out this video on how to peel a head of garlic in 10 seconds.  You have to shake really hard, but it works!

Start off by lining a strainer with paper towels and placing the grated zucchini inside.  Sprinkle with a little salt (less than 1/4 teaspoon) and set aside.

To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan over very low heat.  Add the garlic and cook, tossing occasionally to help it brown evenly, until the cloves are a deep golden color all over (20-25 minutes).

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  To make the meatballs, place all the ingredients except the zucchini in a large bowl.  Squeeze the excess moisture from the zucchini, then add it to the bowl.  Mix everything together well with a wooden spoon or your hands, and let it sit for five minutes.  Then, use tablespoon measure to make heaping tablespoon-sized balls and place them on the prepared sheet.  Place the sheet in the freezer for ten minutes.

When the garlic is browned, add the can of tomatoes and the kale to the pan.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Adjust the heat so that the mixture simmers, and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Once the meatballs have chilled, remove the pan from the freezer.  Use a small spoon to sprinkle a little bit of the liquid from the sauce onto the top of each meatball (this step is optional, but it gives them nice color and flavor as they bake).  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until browned and sizzling.

When the meatballs are almost ready, stir the coconut milk into the sauce, if using, and process it with an immersion or regular blender.

Serve the hot meatballs with the sauce spooned over (on top of zoodles or cauliflower rice if you'd like), or stick a toothpick in each meatball and serve the sauce on the side for dipping.

Want more Whole30 tips & recipes?  Come back for a new post everyday this month, and check out Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 if you missed them!  For even more paleo recipes, check out these Whole30 posts from my archives or my Whole30 Pinterest board.  Also, follow me on Instagram to see pics of what I'm eating throughout my Whole30.

You might also like:

Shrimp & Zoodles with Garlic Tomato Sauce (Whole30 compliant)

Mocha Marinated Steak with Peach Salsa & Cauliflower Mash (Whole30 Compliant)

Stuffed Zucchini (omit the goat cheese to make this Whole30 compliant)



  1. Becky... LOVE the recipe. I am inspired! (By the way... did you know that your mom and my mom - Sandy Pollard - were friends as young women?? Cool huh? My mom has been following your blog and sent it to me... I am really enjoying it.).

    Thanks again!

    1. Thanks, Rachel! I'm so glad you stopped by! Yes, my mom and I had the best time having brunch with your mom the last time we were in Austin--she drove us to the airport, too! Let me know if you try the meatballs :)

  2. I have a general paleo question that I wonder if you could help me with. Is it possible to be a vegetarian and be on the diet? It would seem not but I don't actually know much about what foods are permitted and what are not.

    1. Hi Jacquie, great question! It's possible to do a vegetarian version of the paleo diet with some modifications. I recommend you check out this resource on Paleo Nutrition for Vegetarians from Dallas & Melissa Hartwig of the Whole9:

    2. thanks for the link I will check it out.

  3. I'm trying this tonight! Thanks for the recipe and stay tuned for the turnout.

    1. Somehow I missed this comment--I hope it went well! I'd love to hear how they turned out if you still remember :)

  4. Great recipe! Had it tonight and everyone loved it (kids & adults)!

    1. Thank you--I am so glad everyone enjoyed it!

  5. Thank you for a wonderful recipe !! I just found your blog by way of Low Carb Eating on FB and I signed up for your newsletter. My husband and I are always on the lookout for ways to incorporate veggies as much as possible. We love our new combo Paleo / Low Carb way of eating !! Sorry I have to be anonymous...I am at work....big smile

    1. Thank you so much--very glad you're here! I'm going to brainstorm some more ways to incorporate sneaky veggies for my upcoming recipes :)

  6. These sound really good! I'm going to pin them and hopefully have a chance to make them next week!

    1. Thanks, Sara!! Let me know how it goes when you get a chance to try them :)


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