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Zucchini Meatballs

Meatless-balls? Why not! Zucchini is abundant, so let’s bring these cheesy, garlic vegetable-stuffed meatballs to life!

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If we can turn meat into juicy meatballs, why can’t we do the same with vegetables? A passing thought I had one day in recipe development while working as a chef instructor back in Chicago. I’ve made plenty of zucchini fritters and latkes before and they taste really good! Zucchini gets a bad rep and it’s one of the CHEAPEST vegetables in the grocery store. Why aren’t we making sculptures out of zucchini? I started to make this meatball just like any other meatball recipe. A few eggs, breadcrumbs, fresh garlic, some parmesan cheese, and fresh herbs. When I poured over the marinara sauce I just about died at how similar these tasted to my family’s Italian meatballs. You can air-fry these in a pinch, bake them in the oven, or my preferred method-searing them in a pan. Serve them up over a bed of warm marinara sauce garnished with more parmesan cheese. I’m willing to bet your whole family will love these.

My first mistake when making these meatballs with squash was not draining the squash. Don’t be like me, drain the heck out of your grated zucchini. The more moisture you get out, the drier and crisper the meatballs get. The best way I’ve found to drain zucchini is to toss the grated zucchini in a bowl with salt. Let the salt pull out the moisture and start to break down the fresh zucchini. This will save you the time and effort of squeezing water out yourself.

Don’t go over the top with fillings! This is a simple meatball recipe converted from using ground meat to zucchini. I have made these stuffed with cheese before and I would advise against it. It makes the middle too soft. Change up what you serve it in! What about serving in a Swedish meatball-style sauce or even a vodka sauce?

This is one of those recipes I will die happy for thinking up. I will continue to keep perfecting my zucchini meatball-making skills by working to make these even crispier. If anything, I hope this recipe just encourages you to get a little braver and cost-efficient with your produce.

Yield(s): Serves 6

10m prep time

16m cook time

Allergens: Gluten, Milk

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  • 3 zucchini, grated
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumb
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
  • 3 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1 (32 oz.) jar Rao's marinara, for serving
  1. Mix your grated zucchini in a bowl with kosher salt and sit for 5 minutes. Add your zucchini to a clean tea towel or mesh strainer and squeeze as much moisture out of the zucchini as possible.
  2. Add squeezed zucchini, egg, parmesan, panko, garlic cloves, diced onion, parsley, and basil to a mixing bowl. Mix the batter with your fingers until all ingredients are incorporated. Your batter should look wet, but not sticky or soft. If you notice your batter is dry, use your fingers to squeeze the batter to let the zucchini moisture create a wetter batter.
  3. Use a small ice cream scoop to form golf ball-sized meatballs and place them onto a parchment-lined baking tray. If you have time to round each meatball, you can if you want.
  4. Preheat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat with 3 tablespoons avocado oil until rippling, about 2 minutes. You will have to cook these in two batches. Arrange your meatballs in the preheated pan ensuring you have enough room to flip each.
  5. Let meatballs sear for two minutes flip over and sear for another 1 - 2 minutes. Flip the meatball onto one side and let cook for 1 minute, then flip to the other side and repeat. Remove meatballs to a wire rack to cool and start on the next batch. You may need more oil.
  6. Warm up your marinara sauce when all meatballs are finished and once hot, add meatballs to the sauce, garnishing with extra parmesan cheese.
  7. NOTE: While searing your meatballs, let them get deeply browned in color for maximum flavor. As you flip each meatball they may start to lose shape, be gentle while flipping and use the spatula to help reshape them. They are ZUCCHINI after all!