Homemade meatballs are topped with marinara for this hearty Italian favorite and paired with a fresh, simple salad for added phytonutrients. Skip the carbs but not the flavor in your new favorite dish.

Number of Servings: 6 servings of 6 meatballs (36 meatballs total)

Prep Time:  20 min.

Cook Time: 50 min. (20 minutes hands-on)

Total Time: 1 hr. 10 min.


  • 2-pounds ground bison
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup Nut Crumbs, original or Italian
  • ¾ cup finely grated parmesan or nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley, plus more for finishing
  • ¾ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 tablespoons avocado oil, divided
  • 32-ounces Marinara sauce, sugar-free and organic
  • 5-ounces spring mix
  • 1-ounce thinly sliced fresh parmesan cheese (can sub dairy-free cheese here)
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • Juice of 1 small lemon
  • 6-ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into thin slices, optional


  1. In a large bowl, combine the bison, eggs, Nut Crumbs, parmesan, parsley, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix until just combined (careful not to overmix). Using a 1 ½ -inch cookie scoop, shape the meat mixture into meatballs by gently rolling between the palms of your hands. Set aside on a clean plate and continue until all meat is rolled.
  2. Preheat a 4.5-quart Dutch oven fitted with a lid over medium-high heat with avocado oil. Working in batches to ensure the pan isn’t overcrowded, sear the meatballs, allowing them to cook for 1-2 minutes before rotating. Once seared, use tongs to place on a clean plate. Continue until all meatballs are browned.
  3. Add enough marinara to cover the bottom of the Dutch oven, then carefully add all of the meatballs. Pour the remaining sauce over the top. Allow the sauce to come to a low simmer, then reduce the heat to low (or your lowest setting) and cover. Allow the meat to braise in the sauce for 30 minutes, or until meatballs are completely cooked through and no pink is visible.
  4. While the meatballs are cooking, assemble your salad. Add the greens, parmesan, pine nuts, lemon juice and remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to a large bowl. Gently toss to combine.
  5. Optional: Once the meatballs are cooked through, add thinly sliced fresh mozzarella, then cover the meatballs with the lid again and allow the cheese to melt, 3-4 minutes. Finish with fresh parsley and serve with salad.

Cook’s Notes

  1. You can use the brand Nut Crumbs as the “breadcrumb” or choose your favorite grain-free alternative for a keto-friendly option.
  2. Overmixing the meat mixture can cause the meatballs to turn out “gummy” rather than tender. Just mix until combined.
  3. If bison is not available, feel free to substitute another animal protein, preferably 90% or leaner.