Quinoa Meatballs with Homemade Tomato Sauce

November 3, 2013 by Rebecca Ryan (8 Comments)


These meatballs use quinoa as a binder instead of breadcrumbs, which makes this a gluten free dish.  You can make the sauce and the quinoa ahead of time or you can just use your favorite store bought sauce.


There seems to be quite the buzz around quinoa these days and rightly so.  It is gluten free, has a high protein content and is loaded with B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium and vitamin E.   Although it is typically categorized as a whole grain, it is actually a seed and easily takes on whatever flavor you add to it.  It can be eaten warm for breakfast with some fruit and skim milk, mixed with veggies for a side dish or as a binding agent for a meatball!  I think quinoa might be my new best friend!

How to cook quinoa:

  • Rinse quinoa in a fine strainer before cooking.  This washes away a natural toxin called saponin.
  • Put 1 cup rinsed quinoa in a pot with 2 cups of water.  (You can double this if you want to have leftovers for breakfast or other dishes.)
  • Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook covered for 15 minutes or until all water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes covered; fluff with a fork.

Quinoa Meatballs

What you need:

  • 1 lb. grass-fed lean ground beef
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for pan


  • Combine all ingredients (except the olive oil) in a large bowl and mix together with your hands until everything is evenly distributed.
  • Form small meatballs with your hands and put them on a separate plate.
  • Refrigerate meatballs for about 20 minutes.
  • Prepare a plate with some paper towels.
  • Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat after the 20 minutes has passed.
  • Gently place meatballs in the oil.  Try not to over crowd the pan.  You may need to do 1-2 batches depending on the size of your pan.
  • Brown meatballs on all sides.  You will need to move them with a wooden spoon after a few minutes on each side.  You do not need to completely cook them through because they will finish cooking in the sauce.
  • Remove meatballs and place them on the plate with the paper towel in order to soak up any excess oil.
  • Drain the excess oil from the pan and pour tomato sauce into the pan.


  • Gently place meatballs back into the pan.  Lower the flame and cook covered for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Serve over whole-wheat pasta, more quinoa or with some steamed veggies.

This recipe makes about 20-24 meatballs and was adapted from Nosh and Nourish.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

This sauce is such a fantastic recipe to have on hand because it is so easy, versatile and delicious.  It can be used on pastas and other grains, pizza, fish, chicken or even with eggs/omelets.  You could also puree it very finely and serve it as a tomato soup (with a touch of cream, maybe)?  It really makes everything that you would typically use jarred tomato sauce for taste that much better.  This is a great recipe to double so that you can keep some in the freezer (in an airtight container or Ziploc) for another day.

What you need:

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped organic celery, including some of the celery leaves
  • 1 cup chopped organic carrot
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup low sodium organic chicken stock
  • 28 oz. can of organic whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 -2 tbsp of either fresh rosemary or fresh basil (optional)


  • Heat olive oil in a large soup/sauce pot.
  • Cook carrots and celery in the heated oil for about 5 minutes.  Make sure to give them a stir here and there so they don’t burn.
  • Add a pinch of kosher salt, fresh black pepper, chopped garlic and any other herbs.  Cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Pour in the canned tomatoes and use the back of a large spoon to break open the whole tomatoes.
  • Add the chicken stock, 2 bay leaves and a bit more salt and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.
  • Remove bay leaves and let sauce cool down before transferring to a blender.
  • Once cooled, put sauce in a blender or Vitamix.  Be sure to remove the center piece from the blender cover to let a bit of steam out.  Cover the hole with a towel and then puree.  Puree until smooth but still a bit chunky for sauce.  If you are turning this into soup, then blend to a finer consistency.

Category: Dinner, Gluten Free, Lunch

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8 Responses to “Quinoa Meatballs with Homemade Tomato Sauce”

  1. Sonja
    November 4th, 2013 @ 12:34 am

    My mouth is watering! I need more quinoa recipes! Will try this with my own signature tomato sauce.

  2. flavoryourhealth
    November 6th, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

    Thanks! Let me know how they turn out and would love to learn about your signature sauce!

  3. Linda
    March 25th, 2014 @ 2:24 pm

    Hi Rebecca, I’m going to try your tomato sauce and wanted to use fresh organic tomatoes instead of the canned ones. How many would I need, and…how do I peel them?

  4. flavoryourhealth
    March 25th, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

    Hi Linda, The best way to peel fresh tomatoes is to bring a large pot of water almost to a boil and blanch the tomatoes (a few at a time) for about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. (You can put them in an ice bath if you want.) Once cooled, the skins should peel right off. I would probably recommend using about 6-8 large tomatoes, depending on the type. Sounds yummy. Let me know how it turns out!

  5. Linda
    March 26th, 2014 @ 2:30 am

    Wow, it worked! I’ve never had to peel a tomato before and was surprised how easy it was after following your directions. I made these, and your sauce, for dinner tonight. I think the last time I made meatballs was in 2005, so I was nervous about it. I’m a vegetarian and rarely choose to handle red meat, but to see my 20 month old, gluten allergic son, eat three of these and ask for more was so worth it.

    I didn’t have fresh basil so had to use dried, so I bet the next time they will be even better. I also made your sauce using low sodium vegetable broth, and put everything in my blend and cook soup maker. Very yummy! What’s the best way to freeze the meatballs? This might sound silly, but do I cook them first? I’m meat clueless.

  6. flavoryourhealth
    March 26th, 2014 @ 4:34 pm

    Hi Linda, So glad the dish was a success! As long as the meat was fresh, you can cook the meatballs and then put them in the freezer with or without the sauce. Yes, fresh herbs always lend wonderful flavor but glad that didn’t stop you from giving it a try!

  7. Linda
    October 9th, 2015 @ 4:07 pm

    I just revisited this recipe and used lamb (grass fed from our farmer’s market) and substituted Flax egg instead since we have egg allergies now as well as gluten. It was still AMAZING! I love using Quinoa as much as possible.
    Thanks so much,

  8. Rebecca Ryan
    October 12th, 2015 @ 4:00 pm

    I am so glad you are still using this recipe and have been able to adapt for your needs!

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