Quinoa Veggie "Meatballs"

I'd like to ask you to consider the meatball for a moment.  Humble in stature, it doesn't receive nearly as much attention as it deserves.  Instead, it's usually an afterthought.  Sometimes a poorly flavored concoction, sadly bubbling away in a crock pot at a buffet or just a meaty decoration to adorn a pile of pasta, the meatball suffers from some poor PR.  What is failed to be recognized is how convenient and versatile meatballs are.  Cute little round vessels of flavor, the meatball can be oh so much more than the traditionally Italian flavored meat rolled into a ball.  In fact, dare I say, it can even be delicious as a vegetarian dish.

A couple months back, I made my first version of a vegetarian (eggplant) meatballs and I fell in love.  In addition to my affection towards this recipe, I think it opened my eyes to a wide world of possibilities and flavor combinations.  The eggplant meatballs that I made are a lighter cousin to a traditional meatball but doesn't sacrifice flavor (usually the flaw in a well-meaning lighter version of a recipe).  However, being the self-competitive person that I am, I wanted to see if I could one up myself and create a completely different vegetarian meatball.

Mission accomplished, I must say.  I was thrilled with the way they came out and found myself liking them even more than my eggplant meatballs.  What really made these so good was the texture.  "Poppy" and slightly crunchy quinoa was very welcoming and a nice change of pace as well as was a great compliment to the tender mushrooms and sweet roasted red pepper bits.  I also added a couple pinches of crushed red pepper flakes just to keep things interesting and heat things up a bit (of course you can just leave those out if you're not into heat).

For serving, I thought these worked quite nicely in traditionally meatball parm. sub form, with lots of mozzarella melting down the sides and good quality crusty sub rolls.  These would also be a popular guest a party.  Served in a more miniature form, they could be accompanied by a simple marinara sauce and I guarantee they'd be a favorite as well as a conversation starter as I find there's still a good population that hasn't had the pleasure of being introduced to quinoa yet.

I loved this recipe so much that I've decided that it is worthy of being categorized in as a Recipe I Love.

Recipe is featured after the jump!

Quinoa Veggie "Meatballs"

- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 1 cup water (or chicken stock)
- 5-6 large button mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
- 1 small pat of butter or a drizzle of olive oil
- 1/2 bag of fresh baby spinach, chopped
- 1/2 red pepper, finely diced
- 1/4 cup onions, diced
- 2 tbs pine nuts (almost any kind of nut would work well here too!)
- 2 eggs - one for egg wash
- A couple generous pinches of crushed red pepper
- 1/2 tsp fresh oregano
- 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary
- Salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa according to package using either water or chicken stock and set aside to cool a bit.  Fry up the onions and mushroom slices in a little bit of butter or olive oil until the onions have softened and the mushrooms have browned and set aside.  In the same pan, wilt the spinach until it just softens.  In a large bowl, combine the fried mushrooms, wilted spinach, red pepper and onions. Add the oregano, rosemary and crushed red pepper.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add the pine nuts and combine mixture.  Add the cooled quinoa and mix in one of the eggs.  Shape the mixture into even-sized balls and place on a greased and foil lined baking sheet.  Make an egg wash by mixing together the remaining egg and a splash of water.  Using a brush, paint the meatballs with the eggwash.  Bake at 400 degrees until they are cooked through, browned and slightly crispy.  


Shannon said...

I have your eggplant meatballs on my list of things to make and now I'm going to have to add these too!

Elizabeth said...

These look so so delicious. Totally going to try them

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

GREAT idea. I love quinoa and have just started experimenting with stuffing meatballs with veggies. This is a great next step!

Kathy at the Boston Sports Woman said...

Ooh, we are meatball fanatics in our house, this will be fun to mix it up a bit!

Melissa said...

I made your eggplant meatball recipe and loved that - I'm sure I'll love this too! Can't wait to try it!

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

I love all of your creative takes on the traditional meatball!

Michelle said...

Wow- what a great way to use quinoa! I will definitely be trying these.

In and Around Town said...

May have to try these for a Meatless Monday - they look great!

Rachel said...

Oh YUM, these look great. I try to avoid gluten as it bothers my stomach, so I'll have to try these babies out! Since they're made with quinoa I can actually eat them - YAY : ) Thanks for sharing...they really look delicious!

Rachel @Healthy_Chicks

SAS said...

Gluten free. YAY!

Daisy said...

how inventive! i love how your recipes always push the envelope!

Anonymous said...

How much is "a half bag of baby spinach"? I buy 3 lb bags from Costco. I've also seen baby spinach in 6 oz, 10 oz, and 1 lb bags.

Megan said...

My meatballs are never an afterthought. :) I still want to try your eggplant meatballs and now I want to try these too! You didn't find it too heavy with the quinoa and the roll? I feel like I'd serve this on the plate, maybe with more veggies alongside.

Colleen said...

Wow, how creative! These look so delicious! They're on my cooking to-do list. :)

Lizzy said...

AWESOME! I am totally making these!!!!!!!

Meghan@travelwinedine said...

They look great, especially on a sandwich!

Kerstin said...

How unique and tasty - love you creativity!

Alicia said...

VERY creative. Rafe and I are *trying* to start a meatless monday tradition. This would be a great way to transition him to a vegetarian dinner - these look so hearty!

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Thanks for all the comments, sorry I'm a little slow to respond!

Anonymous, I used a traditionally sized grocery store bag of spinach, I believe they are 6 oz? It was roughly a couple large handfuls of spinach if you're using a bigger bag.

Megan, I didn't find them too heavy, which I usually do with the whole carb on carb thing but I think because quinoa is s light and don't have a super starchy quality to it, it works. I loved the texture of it and sort of "popping" quality that it has.

Janel said...

This is such a great idea! I might even make these as a stand-alone dish with some veggies on the side.

Kathleen said...

Such a great idea and great photos! Can't wait to try. THanks for posting.

Eliana said...

These meatballs look so hearty and delicious. Love that they are healthy too.

Jen said...

These look awesome. I have some cooked quinoa in the fridge that I might have to make into meatballs...

Jess @ littlegirlbigappetite said...

These look great! I have ta give them a try!

Erin said...

I made these tonight...so good!! My super picky eater 2 yr old even devoured them!

Elizabeth Yarnell said...

Thanks for posting this inspirational recipe! I made a version of it using millet instead of quinoa and they were delicious! Here's what I did: http://www.effortlesseating.com/2011/03/gluten-free-veggie-burger-recipe/

Jan said...

I'm anxious to try these. The cooked quinoa is ready and waiting in my freezer. About how long does it take to bake these?

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Hi Jan - Thanks for stopping by! You should cook them until they just start to get a little crispy on the outside and turn a golden brown. About 15-20 minutes or so? Good luck and enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Our New Favorite!!! Thank you so much! These babies are delicious & we're trying the eggplant ones tonight! :)

spider veins said...

These look great. I love all your ideas in the traditional meatball! What a great way to use quinoa! I would like these.

mountain mama said...

yay! i am new to the quinoa scene but it is so tasty. we have been looking for a decent veggie meatball recipe and it is on the menu for dinner tonight. i even bought the red quinoa for more of a meatball look for the kiddos. thanks for the post, i am sure they will be delicious!

maya said...

yummy, this is just the recipe i was looking for - gluten-free, dairy-free and with a big variety of flavors! can't wait for dinner tomorrow...

Maya said...

yummy, this is just the recipe i was looking for - gluten-free, dairy-free and with a big variety of flavors! can't wait for dinner tomorrow...

Meg said...

These look amazing- I cant wait to make them!

Barbara said...

Served these on a "float" of homemade spaghetti sauce, with Spaghetti squash in sage butter and Parmesan. Outstanding!

Linda Wagner - Nutrition to Invigorate Mind, Body and Spirit said...

Yummmmmmm!! I am going to try these VERY soon!!

Maggie Rulli said...

Just stumbled across this recipe and I have to say: GENIUS! I am SO excited to go try these... thanks for the recipe :)

Bonnie said...

Delicious! My family just went mostly vegan for health reasons, and my daughter requested spaghetti and meatballs for dinner tonight. I searched for vegetarian meatballs and came up with these. They are still simmering in the sauce but the mix is delicious. Can't wait to taste them.

I did have to add about a half cup of breadcrumbs to hold everything together.

Anna said...

I'm making these for dinner tomorrow - How long did you bake them for?

Anonymous said...

Any thoughts on freezing these after baking?

Anonymous said...

Yum! Looking forward to making these tonight. Thanks for sharing. L from Australia

Anonymous said...

I tried these but omitted the pine nuts and added parmesan cheese, took them to a Christmas Eve party and everyone loved them! Now I have to forward the recipe to a handful of poeple. Delicious recipe, thanks!

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Best Reviews for Westport Fishing Washington said...

This looks fantastic and cannot wait to make it! Thanks for another great idea and recipe!

sharqawi ana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Great data for Wall NJ House Cleaning site info said...

ok, so I used only nutritional yeast and it worked perfectly! I loved the taste and texture so much! my non-vegan family also thought they were really yummy :D great recipe and thank you for sharing!

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