Although I don’t eat red meat, I have nibbled at “real” meatballs on a couple occasions (@Lavo, Las Vegas) and they do undoubtedly taste better than any vegetarian/vegan meatball recipe out there.
But since we are all here to promote good health, here’s to second best – Vegetarian Quinoa Meatballs made with quinoa and mushrooms and breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese and basil and then rolled into little balls and baked off in the oven.
For this recipe, I strongly recommend buying a really “good quality” marinara sauce since the bulk of the flavor is in the sauce. My recommendation is Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce which is nothing short of perfection. I can’t stop raving about it, and just like I, you will be transformed to Italy after just one bite. Seriously!
NUTRITION: Quinoa is a complete Protein loaded with 9 essential amino acids, Fiber, and is a very good source of Iron, and Magnesium. Whole Wheat Pasta adds Protein and Fiber to this dish. Tomato Sauce is a good source of Vitamins A and C. Basil is an excellent source of Vitamin K and a very good source of Iron, Calcium, and Vitamin A. Although high in fat, egg and cheese are an excellent source of Calcium and Protein.
INGREDIENTS (makes 4-6 servings)
for quinoa meatballs – makes 18 meatballs baked @ 350 degrees
(recipe mostly adapted from Aida Mollenkamp; halved & modified, here is my version):
- Quinoa – 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp (uncooked)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1 tbsp
- Crushed Red Pepper – 1/2 tsp
- Onion – 1 small (chopped)
- Garlic – 2 cloves (chopped)
- Thyme – 1 tsp
- Baby Bella Mushrooms – 8 ounces (chopped)
- Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce – 3 tbsp (or use your favorite marinara)
- Black Pepper – 1/4 tsp
- salt to taste
- Parmesan Cheese – 3 tbsp
- Fresh Basil – 3 tbsp
- Organic Egg – 1
- Italian Style Bread Crumbs – 1/4 cup
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1 tsp
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes – 1/2 tsp (use less or omit if you can’t handle heat)
- Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce – 1 (32 ounce) jar (or use your favorite “good quality” Marinara sauce)
- Black Pepper – 1/2 tsp
- salt to taste
- Barilla Whole Grain Spaghetti – 1 (13.25 ounce) box
for the quinoa
1. Start by cooking the quinoa. This is what you should have once it is done. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
2. Chop the onion, garlic, and mushrooms.
3. Heat a large skillet on medium heat, once hot, add a tablespoon of EVOO, add crushed red pepper and wait till you hear a sizzle.
4. Add the onion and season with salt and black pepper. Cook until soft, just a few minutes.
5. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for about 30 seconds.
6. Add the mushrooms and season with salt. Allow the mushrooms to cook for about 10 minutes or until browned.
7. Once the mushrooms brown, add 3 tbsp of Marinara Sauce.
8. Stir all the ingredients together and turn off the stove. Save the skillet for later use.
9. At this time preheat the oven at 350 degrees.
10. Add the quinoa to a mixing bowl.
11. Add the sautéed mushrooms to the quinoa.
12. While the mushrooms cool, grate some parmesan cheese and chop some basil.
13. Add the cheese and basil to the quinoa and mushrooms.
14. Add the breadcrumbs and egg.
15. Mix all the ingredients so everything is well incorporated.
16. Coat a baking tray with Sunflower Oil. Dampen your hands and use a 1 tablespoon measurement to form little quinoa balls.
17. You should have around 18. Into the oven for 15-25 minutes, however I baked mine for 25 minutes. Oven temperatures vary so check after 15 minutes and then every 5.
for the sauce + pasta
18. While the quinoa meatballs bake, you can cleanup, and then heat a pot of water for the pasta, and chop up some basil.
19. Once the patties are done, using a flat stainless steel turner “gently” scrape the quinoa meatballs off the baking tray.
20. Add the quinoa patties to the original skillet you were using.
21. Turn on the stove, once hot, add a teaspoon of EVOO and crushed red pepper, wait for the pepper to sizzle.
22. Now add your favorite Marinara Sauce.
23. Season with very little salt (if need be) and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.
24. Add a handful of the chopped fresh basil leaves.
25. Cover with a lid and simmer on low heat (dial #3). About 7 minutes.
26. Follow the instructions on the box and cook the spaghetti until perfectly al dente.
27. Check on the sauce, this is what you should have. Looks like real meatballs, huh?
28. Using tongs, add the hot spaghetti directly into the sauce.
29. GENTLY TOSS so you do not break up the quinoa meatballs. Add 1/4 cup or less of reserved pasta water if you want to thin out the sauce slightly.
30. Serve immediately. So comforting and tasty. I was full after just 1 bowl since quinoa is packed with protein. Love it!
TELL ME: Have you ever made vegetarian quinoa meatballs? How do you make yours? What’s your favorite Marinara Sauce?