Low-carb, gluten-free, and 100% delicious.
This low-carb cheesy meatball casserole is not the spaghetti and meatballs of your childhood: It’s a healthy spin on a classic. Our healthier version captures all the flavors you love about the original dish. To make this casserole low-carb (and gluten-free), we left out the breadcrumbs and pasta. We promise you won’t actually miss them, especially once you get a taste of the deliciously cheesy ricotta and mozzarella cheese topping.
Each serving of our low-carb cheesy meatball casserole contains about 250 calories, only 4 grams of carbohydrates, and a whopping 50 grams of protein from the eggs and ground turkey. Low-carb, high-protein, and 100 percent delicious. What’s not to love?
Ground Turkey Makes a Healthier Meatball
Most meatball recipes use fat-filled ground beef, as well as breadcrumbs, crackers, or oatmeal to hold the meatballs together. The first thing we did to change things up with this low-carb cheesy meatball casserole recipe was to swap in lean ground turkey. We bet you won’t be able to tell the difference in the flavor and texture of the meatballs, but this substitution saves a ton of fat and calories. Look at the comparison between the two:
For each three-ounce serving of 80/20 beef (according to the USDA):
- 209 calories
- 13.5 grams fat
5.9 grams saturated fat
- 20.4 grams protein
- 71.4 grams cholesterol
For each three-ounce serving (according to the USDA):
- 120 calories
- 6 grams fat
- 1.8 grams saturated fat
- 16.5 grams protein
- 59 grams cholesterol
This Low-Carb Cheesy Meatball Casserole is Gluten-Free!
The next thing we did to make our meatball casserole healthier was to skip the filler. There’s really no need for breadcrumbs as a binder when you have eggs and cheese! The eggs add moisture and a little fat to the lean ground turkey, helping it become stickier. Then, the cheese fills in the gaps, holding the meatball together with a cheesy network as it bakes.
Then, we took a hard pass on the noodles traditionally served with meatballs. They can be a complex carbohydrate if you use whole-grain pasta, but all noodles are high in carbohydrates. This low-carb cheesy meatball casserole is perfectly filling on its own, so you can serve it by itself. Of course, spooning the cheesy, saucy meatballs over noodles is traditional, so you can absolutely use zucchini zoodles or spaghetti squash instead. We’ve also served it with cauliflower rice, and it was equally delicious, or you can keep things ultra-simple and serve the casserole with a side salad.
The Cheesy Tomato Sauce Brings the Dish Together
The meatballs in this low-carb cheesy meatball casserole are the star, but the sauce really makes the dish shine. To keep this recipe low-carb, you’ll want to grab your favorite low-carb tomato sauce. You can make your own, or pick up a low-sugar or no-sugar marinara sauce at the grocery store.
Look for tomato sauce or marinara sauce that contains less than five grams of sugar. When you look at the ingredients list, sugar shouldn’t be included (or it should be at the very end). It’s really best if the ingredients are minimal, including only whole foods like tomatoes, onions, herbs, and spices.
Low-Carb Cheesy Meatball Casserole
- 2 pounds lean ground turkey or ground chicken
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese freshly grated
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup onion grated
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tablespoons parsley chopped
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- kosher salt to taste
- 24 ounces marinara sauce low-carb, jarred
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup mozzarella shredded
- 3 tablespoons basil fresh, chopped
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Make the meatballs by combining the ground turkey, Parmesan cheese, eggs, onion, garlic, parsley, Italian seasoning, black pepper, red pepper flakes,and salt.
- Form the meatballs into 18 balls using your hands or a cookie scoop. Place them in a 13x9 casserole dish.
- Bake the meatballs for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re cooked through.
- Pour the marinara sauce over the meatballs and spoon the ricotta cheese evenly over the mixture. Sprinkle the top with the mozzarella cheese and bake until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and serve with fresh basil.
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