LEAN Life Recipe: Healthy, Hearty Meatballs with Marinara

I don't know about you, but I returned from Thanksgiving feeling ready for some serious vegetables! 

The holiday was very fun and I stayed active and indulged strategically BUT I still felt the effects of all the extra food and drinks over the past few days. 

That inspired me to come home and cook up a storm with Justin on Sunday. I was determined to get a lot of healthy food prepped and ready, and in addition to my usual weeknight fare I wanted something a little more hearty and "wintery". 

I've been making these meatballs for years, but I hadn't whipped up a batch in awhile so I decided it was high time. I pack TONS of veggies into these meatballs which helps me get in more fiber, stay full longer, give them a depth of flavor that rivals any restaurant and allows me to use NO breadcrumbs or other fillers. It's all GOOD for you ingredients! 

I make this recipe with the intention of freezing some of these portions and with only about 30 minutes of "action" cooking time (meaning not counting while the sauce is simply cooking over the stove top by itself) I get 6 meals out of it for Justin and I! Quite the return on investment if you ask me! 


I portion out 4 meatballs with about 3/4 cup of sauce for each serving and we will pair this with roasted broccoli and cauliflower, zucchini noodles, or my new fav "Banza" chickpea pasta, which is gluten free and has extra protein. It all depends on my activity level and how many carbs I need to fuel my workouts and replenish my muscles. 

I love knowing that eating this I"m getting lots of vegetables, this is high fiber, very satiating, and is chock full of phytonutrients and zoochemical that can only come from REAL WHOLE foods. I'm sure I'll be very happy to have these made ahead of time and ready to reheat as the weather cools off and the end of the year craziness plows ahead. Let me know what you think!  


Healthy, Hearty Meatballs with Marinara

Ingredients for the Meatballs:

8 oz raw carrots (half a 1 lb bag)

10 oz package of mushrooms 

1 yellow onion

6 stalks of celery

4 cloves garlic

2 lbs grassfed ground beef

2 lbs ground pork (high quality if you can)

2 eggs 

2 tbsp olive oil

Sea salt & black pepper (to taste)


Ingredients for the Marinara:

1 Tbsp tomato paste

6 cloves garlic

 4 Tbsp olive oil

2 yellow onions

2 Tbsp fresh basil

2 - 26 oz cans whole peeled tomatoes

2 - 26 oz cans crushed tomatoes with basil 

Sea salt & black pepper (to taste)

Directions for the Meatballs: 

  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Combine the first 5 meatballs ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it's a fine dice, almost a wet paste.

  2. Add the olive oil to a saute pan and heat the oil before adding the veggies to the pan and saute until most of the moisture steams out (15-20 minutes).

  3. In a large mixing bowl combine the beef, pork, and eggs. Mix together using a potato masher or your hands.

  4. Add the cooked veggie mixture to the meat in the bowl (be careful not to burn your hands if it's still hot!) until you have one big bowl of meatball mix. 

  5. Roll the meatball out into roughly 2oz portions (if you a have a food scale this is great time to use it!) and place the balls on a large sheet pan (I recommend covering the pan with foil)

  6. Place in a 350 degree oven and cook for 20 minutes or until cooked through. 

Directions for the Marinara: 

  1. Pulse the onions in your food processor until they're in very small pieces.

  2. Add the olive oil to a large stock pot and heat the oil before adding the onions to the pot. Let cook down for 5-10 minutes. 

  3. Add the garlic, basil, and tomato paste to the pot. Continue to cook and thicken for another 10 minutes.

  4. Open the peeled tomatoes and (gently) crush them by hand into the sauce pot, be careful! They squirt tomato juice everywhere so hold them down in the pot!

  5. Add the crushed tomatoes to the pot.

  6. Cook partially covered over low heat for 4+ hours, stirring every now and then.

Nutrition Information


Makes 48 meatballs. 1 meatball is 1 serving, however I usually eat 4 per meal.

Protein: 8g

Carbs: 1g

Fat: 5g

Total Calories: 79 cals


Makes 12 servings. 1 serving is roughly 3/4 cup of sauce. 

Protein: 4g

Carbs: 17g

Fat: 5g

Total Calories: 116 cals

4 Meatballs + 1 Serving of Marinara:

Protein: 36g

Carbs: 21g

Fat: 25g

Total Calories: 423 cals

About Ashley:

Ashley is a Pilates instructor and entrepreneur in NYC who specializes in biomechanics and exercise nutrition for women. She uses the science behind exercise physiology to empower her clients to lead healthy, happy lives. Her passion project is writing “The LEAN Life Newsletter” which goes out every Tuesday and focuses on Lifestyle, Exercise, Active recovery, and Nutrition and serves as the backbone for her L.E.A.N. Life online health and fitness programs. She aims to get this information into the hands of as many women as possible so they can feel stronger and more confident in their bodies. For more information head to AshleyBrownPilates.com or @AshleyBrownPilates on instagram, or click here to get on the L.E.A.N. Life List! 

Ashley Brown