It’s been about four years since removing tomato, after discovering three out of four of my sons’ no longer can tolerate it. The high level of phenols affects my twin boys’ and my teenager gets sneezing episodes and eczema symptoms the next day. Plus, with arthritis prominent on both sides of my family and having recovered from fibromyalgia, we are all better off without it. But that doesn’t mean we need to give up one of our favorite sauces. Tomato shmotato! The marinara sauce for this sweet and sour meatballs kicks tomato in the butt. It took a dozen attempts to get it just right, but finally, finally think this is it. It’s freaky how similar this tastes to the real thing.
One of the foods I’ve missed over the years is stuffed cabbage. I know, sounds crazy, of all things, but it’s true. Although I grew up eating it more on the savory side, I love the sweeter Polish and Hungarian versions. My Polish mother-in-law really sweetens it up with loads of sugar and raisins. Maybe a little too sweet god bless her. There is some sweetness to this recipe but the sour punch counters it nicely. I should tell you, there are no raisins even though I was going for the Polish version in this deconstructed stuffed cabbage. We avoid it since it also is a high phenol food like tomato, but feel free to add them in if you like.
I opted for this “stuffed cabbage” since there is rolling and pinching in my near future, sparing myself the fill-and-roll step it’s known for. Now, these may be meatballs smothered in sauce over a bed of chopped cooked cabbage BUT you won’t miss the classic. (And likely won’t miss the scent of boiled cabbage, oof.) The cabbage gets tucked into every saucy bite of meatballs as if nothing’s any different, and think of all the time you saved for folding laundry.
I know, I know. It’s another off the traditional wagon (not much of a traditionalist in case you haven’t noticed. #sorrynotsorry) but it has the flavors and texture I remember and love – in less time without the, you know, separating leaves to boil, trimming stems, rolling them up … EXTRA EFFORT. If passion fruit juice is hard to find use pineapple juice, it should give it the same sweet tangy flavor. I’m allergic to pineapple so I used the next best thing. Sauté the cabbage as little or as much as you like to get the desired texture. Then top with heapings of sauced meatballs, some chopped parsley, and dinner is served.
P.S. – Click here for my tomato free, nightshade free marinara sauce – if you have a sensitivity to tomato and nightshades you MUST TRY THIS. As I said earlier, it is freakishly similar.
- Sweet and Sour Sauce:
- 3 cups Marinara Sauce (recipe linked in the post)
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1½ cups pure passion fruit juice, or pineapple
- ½ cup coconut amino
- ¼ cup raw honey or coconut nectar
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt or kosher salt
- *Makes 45 1½-inch round meatballs
- 2½ pounds organic ground turkey, chicken, or pork
- 1 pound organic grass-fed ground beef
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- 3 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup pumpkin or sweet potato puree, OR 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon cold-pressed sesame oil
- 2 small onions, quartered
- 3 tablespoons coconut flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1½ teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
- Sautéed Cabbage:
- 1 head green cabbage
- 5 cloves garlic, optional
- 3-4 tablespoons avocado oil
- salt and crushed black pepper to taste
- chopped parsley
- Preheat oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Prepare rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Add onion to a food processor and pulse until minced, then add remaining meatball ingredients and pulse until ingredients are fully combined and looks like a paste. Using a small ice cream scooper or grab golf ball sized meat mixture to make meatballs and transfer onto parchment lined baking sheet. Gently press to shape any loose meatballs. Space them evenly about an inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes (it will cook further in the sauce).
- Meanwhile, prepare the sweet and sour sauce. Set a pot (large enough not to splatter) on medium-high heat then add marinara sauce, chicken broth, passion fruit juice, and coconut amino, bring to a boil. When boiling, add honey, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, ground ginger, and salt. Reduce heat to medium. When the meatballs are ready, add them to the sauce (discard the liquid remaining) and continue to cook another 20 minutes, covered.
- While the sauce is simmering cut cabbage into thin strips, as desired. Heat a large skillet then add oil and garlic when hot. Sauté for a minute, until lightly browned then add sliced cabbage, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes. Add 2-3 tablespoons of water, stir cabbage, then cover and turn off heat until ready to serve.
- Make ahead:
- The sauce and meatballs can be made up to 3 days in advance. If using pineapple juice in the sauce, do not add to the sauce. Store them separately to prevent the pineapple enzymes from breaking down the meat. Before serving: combine and reheat on low heat.
- For freezing ahead: Cool sauce and meatballs completely (should not be even the slightest warm) then store each separately, in an airtight freezer-safe container, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then transfer into a pot and reheat on the stove at low heat or in a 300 degree F oven for 20-30 minutes, until heated through.
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