Traditional meatballs depend on bread to give them a light body, but I thought some cooked quinoa could also fit the bill and add an extra protein punch while we’re at it. Turns out, the quinoa works like a charm and the texture, while different from an Italian grandmother’s, is quite wonderful in its own right.
The 10 Things You Need to Eat by Dave Lieberman and Anahad O'Conner (William Morrow); copyright 2010
|1/4 cup olive oil||1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa|
|1 large onion, finely chopped||1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese|
|3 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise||1 egg|
|1 large carrot, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise||3 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, very finely chopped|
|1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes||1/2 teaspoon salt|
|One 28-ounce Del Monte Stewed Tomatoes Original Recipe||3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper|
|4 garlic cloves, minced||1 pound linguine|
|1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar||1 large handful fresh basil leaves|
|3 tablespoons canola oil||Salt, for the sauce|
|1 small onion, finely chopped||Freshly ground black pepper, for the sauce|
|1 pound lean ground beef|
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and red pepper flakes and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and vinegar and simmer for 20 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside to keep warm.
To make the meatballs, preheat the oven to 425 ºF. Heat the canola oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, partially covered, until very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the beef, quinoa, Parmesan, egg, parsley, salt, pepper, and cooled onions. Stir until a smooth, homogenous mixture has formed.
Roll the meat mixture into 2-inch balls and set them on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet in neat rows. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until nicely browned but still soft to the touch.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook the linguine al dente. Serve the pasta with some meatballs and the sauce and top with a sprinkling of torn basil leaves.
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