Meatballs served in potato boats topped with sauce, mozzarella and...

Meatballs served in potato boats topped with sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan are a fun, lower carb twist on classic meatball dishes. Credit: Marge Perry

I love this dinner because it combines two favorites — stuffed potatoes and meatball parm — in one dish. You might love it because it is a great lower carb way to eat meatballs. (A baked potato has less than half the carbs of a hoagie roll or two cups of spaghetti).

To make the meal gluten free, just substitute gluten free breadcrumbs. You can make your own sauce, as in the recipe below — or use your favorite bottled sauce for a faster version.

What I love most about this dish is the way the flavors from the meatballs seep into the potatoes. I like to serve the meatball-stuffed potatoes with a crisp green salad for a complete, hearty meal.

Meatball Parm-Stuffed Baked Potatoes

4 (12-ounce) russet potatoes, scrubbed

1 1/4 pounds 85% lean ground beef

2 large eggs

3/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs (regular or gluten free)

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 recipe sauce (below) or 1 24-ounce bottle tomato sauce

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

4 teaspoons shredded Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Prick the potatoes in several spots with a fork and place on a baking sheet. Bake until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork or the tip of a knife, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes.

3. While the potatoes roast make the meatballs. Combine the beef, eggs, bread crumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper in a large bowl; mix well. Form the mixture into 24 (1 1/2-inch) diameter balls. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add half the meatballs. Cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining meatballs.

4. Cut the cooled potatoes in half lengthwise. With a spoon scoop out the potato from each half leaving about 1/4-inch wall and floor of the potato next to the skin. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of sauce and 1 tablespoon mozzarella into each potato half and top with 3 meatballs. Top the meatballs with 1 tablespoon of sauce, 1 tablespoon mozzarella, and 1 teaspoon of the Parmesan.

5. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F. Place the filled potato halves on the baking sheet and set in the center of the oven. Bake until the meatballs are cooked through and the cheese has melted, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve with any remaining sauce on the side.

Simple Tomato Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes

2 teaspoons sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and oregano and cook, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes Add the tomatoes and sugar, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, 15 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes longer. Stir in the salt and pepper. May be made ahead and refrigerated for 3 to 4 days or frozen for longer.

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