Whole30 Meatballs with sweet potato shavings.

It’s hard to find foods that really satisfy all the many sensations we’ve come to expect – something crispy, something sweet, something savory, something hearty and flavorful. We’d gotten through the first 3 days of Whole30 and the newness was falling away, but my first meal that truly filled me up was making meatballs and marinara.

I took a pound of ground chuck, 80-20 lean ratio, and mixed in lots of Italian spices, along with garlic powder and onion powder for both flavor and texture. I use some crush almonds for binder, but not many – less than a 1/4 cup. The magic happened when Husband and I looked at the meatballs and wondered if they would just taste like slightly flavored hamburger. “What about sweet potato?” He asked.

We pulled out the grater and grated almost half of a sweet potato into the mix. Sweet potatoes are less watery than regular potatoes, so they didn’t make the mix soupy at all, but rather added the slight sweetness that many meatball sauces carry, and something to crisp up in the pan. We rolled them into 1 or 1 and a half inch balls and fried them in a cast iron skillet until browned.

In the meantime, I’d been simmering diced organic tomatoes on the stove. I added lots of garlic to this one too – should have cut up cloves and cooked in olive oil first, but I was in a rush. I added diced onions and grated carrot, both because I don’t like carrots much and because marinara often has the slight sweetness of a carrot. The sauce simmered through the whole meatball-making process, and with spices (lots of dried basil because, sadly, it is winter and fresh basil is not to be found in my garden), it came together wonderfully.

I broke through every meatballs crispy shell to get a part of it to drown in the tomato sauce – it felt like a lot of the flavors I love best about pasta but without pasta there to transport them! It made me realize, for the first time during Whole30, that I could be completely satisfied on a diet without cheese or grain. I don’t intend to do it forever, but it felt very empowering.


Seeing the world through rose-colored pasta sauce

I wanted to bake up some tri-colored rotini with broccoli this week, but after so many weeks of coming up with savory sauces, I was about to cave and use a roasted garlic alfredo sauce out of a jar. There’s no shame, after all, in jarred pasta sauce and I love me a good, consistent alfredo – my cream sauces too often end up just outside the consistency ranges I expect, despite still tasting good.

When I thought of how I could mix it up a little, I saw half of a bowl of tomato basil soup leftover from Sunday, and was transported back to college, when so many of my meals involved a pasta with cheesy sauce and some kind of added veggies. We had a dining hall station where you could get all manner of veggies sauteed with garlic and oil, poured onto a plate of pasta and covered in alfredo. Once, my friend LJ came over to our house our senior year, after we were no longer eating on campus as much, and she brought with her fun, winter-themed shaped pasta, and more importantly, a jar of pink sauce! It was called vodka sauce, and I don’t know if there was vodka in it, but she said it was like mixing marinara and alfredo together, a little bit (refined palates, we were not, clearly). Still, the sauce was wonderful and since so many of my favorite memories of college involved me eating pasta with friends, I decided that I would combine my jarred alfredo and tomato soup into a pasta sauce runny enough that it would help my baked pasta get nice and roasted.

With a layer of mozzerella on top, I put the dish in the oven for a while; when everything was melted and bubbly, I turned on the broiler for 2 minutes, at which point the cheese got very brown and I had to hastily remove it from the oven. The result was delightful: the sauce was less one-sided because of the tomato tinge, and the crisp cheese counterbalanced the broccoli, which was limp but soaked in sauce so I didn’t care. I recommend pink sauces whenever you just cannot decide between marinara and alfredo, or when you just want something a little different that day. 🙂