This Low Carb Cheesy Meatball Casserole is the ultimate one skillet comfort food meal. This easy skillet meatball recipe will have everyone asking for seconds! These ground beef meatballs are gluten free, low carb, and keto friendly. Nestled in marinara sauce, with lots of cheese and fresh basil.
This keto meatball casserole is a reliably delicious dinner, with a cook time of only 30 minutes and simple prep. They're wonderful if you're missing spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna on a low carb diet. This recipe is sort of a mash-up of those two! Just grab a cast iron pan, and a few simple meatball ingredients!
Feel free to dive right in and head straight to the recipe card if you want. We will share all of our tips and tricks in the post. We'll also discuss substitutions and more, so make sure to read through completely if you have questions, we probably answered them.
Also, if you're wondering if it's okay to cook with acidic foods like tomato sauce in your cast iron skillet, the answer is YES! Well, at least after it's well seasoned. Read our cast iron care and cleaning guide here!
For The Meatballs:
- Ground beef - We use grass fed ground beef that's 85% lean for these meatballs. We like a little extra fat in the ground beef, because it adds a ton of flavor. While these aren't your classic pork veal meatballs like grandma used to make, they are super simple for busy weeknights!
- Dry seasonings - You can truly use whatever you want here! We like using a mixture of Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, and dried basil. Salt and black pepper are of course in there too. You can definitely make your own Italian seasoning, and we'll share our recipe below!
- Fresh garlic - Fresh garlic packs a huge punch of flavor, and we use it in nearly every savory dish (in some form) that we've ever made! Fresh is always best, but you could of course use garlic powder instead.
- Yellow onion - Make sure to dice them up or even mince them so they are well distributed throughout the meat mixture. You could always use onion powder if you prefer.
- Pork "panko" - We love this pork panko, or breadcrumb style pork rinds! They're great. If you don't eat pork, feel free to substitute with an equal amount of almond flour. Either one will work really was as a gluten free and keto bread crumb substitute.
- Parmesan cheese - Would these cheesy baked cast iron meatballs be complete without parmesan? In our opinion, no! We use them in both the meatballs, and on top of the rest of the cheese when baking.
- Whole egg - A whole egg at room temperature is the perfect thing to bind your meatballs together.
- Heavy whipping cream - This adds moisture to the meatballs and some richness.
- Olive oil - Use whatever your favorite cooking oil is. We opted for olive oil this time, but avocado oil works great. Olive oil is also a natural choice since we are making Italian style meatballs. Olive oil also has a decently high smoke point, so it's good for searing the meatballs in the skillet.
For The Rest:
- Marinara sauce - Choose your favorite variety here, we love Rao's Homemade because of it's simple ingredients, and amazing flavor. There's no additives either, making it perfect for a keto or low carb diet.
- Ricotta cheese - We dollop some creamy ricotta cheese in between the meatballs with the sauce. It's so delicious when baked, you can't go wrong! Look for a ricotta with a higher fat content if low carb, that's generally where the carbs are lower as well.
- Mozzarella cheese - We top the meatballs and ricotta with mozzarella and it's seriously delicious! We used pre-shredded and that works just fine. You can use whatever you prefer.
- Fresh basil & parmesan cheese shreds - Cut basil into ribbons to top, along with parmesan cheese shreds if you desire!
We buy most of our ingredients to make these cast iron meatballs at Costco, where we save money buying in bulk! Be sure not to miss our Huge Costco keto grocery shopping list here!
How to Freeze Meatballs:
If you want to freeze uncooked meatballs, all you have to do is roll them into a meatball shape, then place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. We will pop them into the freezer until frozen solid, just make sure there is some space between them so they don't freeze together. That's it!
After the meatballs are frozen solid, transfer them to an airtight container to freeze. They will keep for a month or two, so be sure to make a label to place on them so you don't forget!
If you want to know how to freeze cooked meatballs, repeat the process! Meatballs that are already cooked will keep for two or three months.
To defrost your meatballs when they're ready to use, you can either bake them to warm them, or reheat in the microwave, allowing some air to escape from the container they are in in the microwave. Turn them often so they can cook evenly.
How to Make Homemade Italian Seasoning:
For this recipe we love making our own Italian seasoning blend. Of course you can use store-bought, if you prefer. It’s so easy and cost effective to make your own Italian Seasoning blend at home. The best part is you can always just add a bit more of your favorite herbs to ensure it fits your tastes.
Here’s how we fix ours up:
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- The following four dried herbs all use 1 tablespoon + 1 tsp, or 4 teaspoon each: marjoram, dried thyme, basil, and dried rosemary
- 1 tbsp sage
*Makes 24 teaspoons or 4 tablespoons. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.
Tips For the Best Cheesy Baked Cast Iron Meatballs?
- If you want to go straight to baking the meatballs, feel free to do so. Add a little bit of olive oil to the skillet before adding the meatballs. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and bake the meatballs for about 30 minutes, flipping once halfway through until the meat is cooked through.
- If you don't eat pork, feel free to swap out the pork panko bread crumbs for almond flour. They both work quite well, with the pork panko having a slight edge in our minds. You should use one of these however, so the meatballs can bind well!
- If you prefer, you can use any ground meat of your choosing instead of beef.
- To reheat, cover and gently simmer on the stove until warmed through, or place in a 300°F oven, covered with aluminum foil, until warm, about 15 minutes.
More Recipes To Try:
- Lamb Meatballs with Feta and Lemon
- Top Sirloin Steak Caprese Skewers with Walnut Pesto
- Keto Lasagna Soup
- Garlic Butter Steak Bites with Lemon Zucchini Noodles
- Steak and Seafood Skillet with Creamy Garlic Parmesan Sauce
- Keto and Gluten Free Swedish Meatballs (Family recipe!)
- Keto Cheesy Garlic Breadsticks
If you're looking for more easy keto recipes, be sure to check out our list of 85+ easy low carb and keto friendly recipes!
Tools We Used For This Recipe:
- Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
- Wooden Spoon
- Measuring Spoons
- Measuring Cup
- Sharp Chef's Knife & Chopping Block
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In a large bowl, add the ground meat, half of the shredded parmesan, dry seasonings, salt, pepper, pork panko, heavy whipping cream, garlic, onion and egg. Mix together until everything is well combined.
Roll into equal sized meatballs, you should have about 12 meatballs. Place on a baking sheet and heat a cast iron skillet (at least 10") over medium heat.
When the skillet is hot, add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet, then add the meatballs to the skillet to brown. The skillet should cooking over medium high heat while browning meatballs. Brown on all sides, but meatballs do not need to be cooked though. Cook in batches as to not overcrowd the pan until all meatballs are browned.
Stir in the marinara, then dollop in the ricotta cheese between the meatballs. Cover everything with the mozzarella cheese and remaining parmesan, about 12-15 minutes.
Broil on high for 3-5 minutes to brown the cheese on top. Garnish with basil ribbons, and more parmesan.
If you get a chance to try this recipe, let us know what you think, would ya?! Leave us a comment, or catch up with us on Facebook or Instagram, or pin to your favorite Pinterest board for later. We love sharing your versions of our creations over on Instagram @afullliving!
If you could please leave a comment and/or a rating if you loved this recipe, we would be forever grateful! (Ratings helps users find our recipes, since users say that they like them!)
Thanks for stopping by, and for including our recipe on your dinner tables. We hope to help make everything more tasty! Be sure to subscribe to our email newsletter so you're the first to know about new recipes we post on our blog.
Until Next Time,
Briana & Chamere
Cast Iron Meatballs - Cheesy Baked One Skillet Meal
For the meatballs:
- 1.34 pounds ground beef, 85% lean
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 whole egg, room temperature
- ½ medium yellow onion, minced (about 56 grams)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup pork rind panko (20 grams)
- 2 ounces parmesan cheese, shredded
- 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons olive oil for browning the meatballs
For the sauce and cheese:
- 28 ounces marinara sauce
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 ounces parmesan cheese, shredded
- Basil and parmesan to garnish
- In a large bowl, add the ground meat, half of the shredded parmesan, dry seasonings, salt, pepper, pork panko, heavy whipping cream, garlic, onion and egg. Mix together until everything is well combined. Roll into equal sized meatballs, you should have about 12 meatballs. Place on a baking sheet and heat a cast iron skillet (at least 10″) over medium heat.
- When the skillet is hot, add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet, then add the meatballs to the skillet to brown over medium high heat. Brown on all sides, but meatballs do not need to be cooked though. Cook in batches as to not overcrowd the pan until all meatballs are browned. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Stir in the marinara, then dollop in the ricotta cheese between the meatballs. Cover everything with the mozzarella cheese and remaining parmesan, about 12-15 minutes.Broil on high for 3-5 minutes to brown the cheese on top. Garnish with basil ribbons, and more parmesan.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.