Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Spaghetti with Quinoa Meatballs

I found a vegetarian meatball recipe that I like better than my tofu meatballs (though, in all honesty, not as much as my actual meatballs). It’s these quinoa meatballs that also contain mushrooms and parmesan, for umami. I had to add a second egg to the mixture to get the meatballs to hold together, so that’s what I’m writing below (even then, they were delicate meatballs). At the recommendation of the original recipe, I used Rao’s marinara sauce, and I have to admit it was really good. I’ll look for that brand next time! I used one and a half containers for this recipe. Also, I ran out of basil, so I used some fresh oregano instead (in a smaller quantity) in the meatballs themselves; since the recipe was missing basil in the sauce ingredients, I didn’t think to buy it and omitted it entirely, but I’ve corrected the ingredient list below.

For the quinoa meatballs
6 Tbsp. quinoa (uncooked)
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (I used a generous pinch of Korean pepper instead)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce (or your favorite brand)
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
salt, to taste
3 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
2 eggs
¼ cup bread crumbs

For the sauce and pasta
12 to 16 oz. spaghetti (I used 16 oz., but found it was too much)
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (I omitted them)
32 oz. Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce (or your favorite good-quality brand)
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
salt, to taste
a handful fresh basil, chopped

For the quinoa meatballs
Start by cooking the quinoa according to package directions (usually 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water, which you bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes). Let cool and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet on medium heat; once hot, add the olive oil, then add crushed red pepper flakes and wait until you hear a sizzle.

Add the onion and season with salt and black pepper. Cook until soft, just a few minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for about 30 seconds.

Add the mushrooms and season with salt. Allow the mushrooms to cook for about 10 minutes or until browned. Once the mushrooms have browned, add 3 Tbsp. of marinara sauce. Stir all the ingredients together and turn off the stove; let cool. Save the skillet for later use.

Preheat the oven to 350 °F.

Put the cooled quinoa in a mixing bowl. Add the sautéed mushroom mixture to the quinoa, along with the parmesan, basil, eggs and breadcrumbs. Mix all the ingredients so everything is well incorporated.

Cover a baking sheet with tin foil and coat or spray with oil.

Dampen your hands and use a 1-tablespoon measurement to form little quinoa balls. (The original recipe said I should have about 18, but I got 32, and I don’t think I made them any smaller than required.)

Place them on the tray and bake in the oven for 15-25 minutes (I baked them close to 25 minutes, until they looked a bit browned, and my oven normally runs a bit hot).

For the sauce and pasta
While the quinoa meatballs bake, heat a pot of water for the pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions. Save some pasta water before draining.

Once the meatballs are done, gently scrape them off the baking tray. Put them in the original skillet you were using. Turn on the heat on medium-low, add oil and crushed red pepper flakes, and wait for the pepper to sizzle (again, I omitted the pepper). Add the marinara sauce and season with salt and pepper. Toss the basil on top, cover and simmer on low heat, about 7 minutes.

At this point, you can either add the (drained) spaghetti to the skillet and *gently* toss everything together, adding some reserved pasta water if needed, or keep them separate (which I did, because it makes reheating easier). Serve immediately.

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