Missing your favorite Italian dish since going Paleo? Look no further, because these Grain Free Chicken Parmesan Meatballs are out of this world and no one will ever know they are free of gluten and grain!
Although I am predominately Irish on both sides of my family tree, I have always loved Italian food and was lucky enough to have a Mother who learned how to cook lots of authentic Italian dishes with guidance from neighbors and friends over the years. A Sunday staple in our home, especially in the cooler months, was having pasta and gravy for dinner. Yes, gravy—and no, I do not mean the brown stuff that you pour over your Thanksgiving turkey. I am talking about the traditional meat and tomato based sauce that is simmered for hours until thick and rich and typically served with a variety of meats including meatballs, sausage, and even leftover pieces of pork, beef and chicken.
While we most often ate gravy, my mom did occasionally make a simple marinara sauce. Unlike the thick meat-based gravy that took all day to come together, this garlicky tomato sauce—that you are probably more familiar with—was thinner, lighter and ready in less than 30 minutes! My mom usually made marinara when she was cooking chicken parmesan for dinner. This was a family favorite and one that I regularly made, especially for my me and my husband, when we were first married and living on our own.
Since transitioning to a gluten free and mostly Paleo and grain free diet a couple years ago, I find that I don’t make my favorite Italian dishes as often. But, my husband recently requested chicken parmesan and after some brainstorming, these delicious Grain Free Chicken Parmesan Meatballs were born!
Traditionally, chicken parmesan is made with breaded chicken breasts that are topped with melted cheese and sauce. For my recipe, I decided to make mini meatballs rolled in a mix of cashew meal and arrowroot flour for the breading and stuffed with mozzarella cheese. I gave the meatballs a light golden crust by quickly pan frying each one and then finishing them off in the oven. I served ours over spaghetti squash, instead of pasta, and topped everything with my Mom’s simple marinara sauce.
My husband and I loved everything about these meatballs and our chicken parmesan cravings were more than satisfied. If you are on a gluten or grain free diet, or just looking to lighten up this popular Italian dish, you should absolutely give this recipe a try!
- 1½ pounds chicken breast, cut into large chunks
- 3 tablespoons coconut flour
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped
- 3 teaspoons Italian seasoning, divided
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 cup cashew or almond meal
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot flour
- 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into bite sized chunks
- ¼ cup coconut oil, for frying
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (Kasandrinos is my favorite!)
- ½ small onion, diced
- 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
- 28 ounce can crushed or strained tomatoes (I use BPA free Pomì)
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon coconut sugar (optional)
- 4-5 basil leaves, chopped
- Preheat over to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
- Place the chicken, coconut flour, water, garlic, egg, basil, salt, pepper and 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning in a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Process the mixture using the pulse button until meat is finely ground into a paste like consistency and all ingredients are well combined.
- Set up your breading station. Combine cashew meal, arrowroot flour and remaining Italian seasoning in a shallow mixing bowl. Set prepared mozzarella chunks next to your bowl.
- Scoop, about 1 tablespoon of ground chicken, into a ball. Make a small indent in center of ball, press cheese in, cover with another small piece and then roll ball to seal in cheese. Roll meatball in the breading and set aside. Repeat with remaining chicken mixture. You should end up with about 22-24 meatballs.
- Heat coconut oil in a deep skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat until nice and hot.
- Pan fry meatballs in batches for about 2 minutes on each side, then place the browned meatballs onto prepared baking sheet. Continue until all meatballs have been fried.
- Place baking sheet into the oven and bake meatballs for 18-20 minutes.
- Start your marinara sauce by heating oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add in garlic and onion and sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.
- Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, seasonings and optional sugar, and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Serve meatballs over your choice of vegetable noodles or gluten free pasta and cover with marinara sauce and fresh bail to garnish. Enjoy!
Gluten-free, Grain free, Primal, Paleo-friendly, Refined sugar free
What is your favorite Italian dish? Have you tried making it without gluten or grain?
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