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You’ll never miss the meat in these Zucchini Quinoa Meatless Meatballs!Martha and I have this running joke. Anytime she sees Lidia Bastianich on her television cooking show, she hollers to me to come and watch because ‘my girlfriend’ is on TV. I won’t lie – she’s my favorite celebrity chef. I pretty much love everything she cooks (plus she’s so down to earth, and her mother – aka Gramma – is adorable), and when I watched her make a similar meatless meatball recipe the other night on her Create TV cooking show, I had to try them. (We also have garden zucchini coming out of our ears, so this is a great way to cook with it!)
How do you make meatless meatballs?These Zucchini Quinoa Meatless Meatballs are a slight departure from Lydia’s recipe, but basically her same method. I used rainbow quinoa (because that’s what we had in our cabinet – plain quinoa can be used), shredded zucchini, eggs, onions, Parmesan cheese (very similar to the Grana Padano cheese that Lydia uses), and I used fresh basil, parsley and oregano from our garden. This recipe is quite forgiving, and you can swap in different herbs and seasonings to suit your tastes. The mixture is shaped into balls, chilled, then fried in vegetable oil until golden brown. We made our Zucchini Quinoa Meatless Meatballs larger than Lydia’s original recipe – so after they fry, you’ll need to either bake them in the oven for a short time until completely cooked through, or simmer them in marinara sauce before serving. (Alternately, you can make them smaller and bite-sized, and the frying process will cook them through all the way.) Finally, you have some serving options for these Zucchini Quinoa Meatless Meatballs. If you’ve baked them after frying, you can eat them as a crispy-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside appetizer with a marinara dipping sauce on the side. Or, if you’ve cooked through in the marinara sauce, they are soft and velvety throughout. (Either way is delicious.) BTW – Martha’s celebrity chef crush is Curtis Stone, ever since she met him a few years ago at an event. (I don’t know…something about his Aussie accent…) I holler to her anytime ‘her boyfriend’ is on TV too. You may like these other meatless recipes:
- Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini
- Summer Vegetable Torte
- Lidia’s Rice and Zucchini Crostata
- Tomato Pie
- Scarpaccia (Zucchini Tart)
1 cup cooked quinoa (we used rainbow quinoa)
1 medium zucchini, shredded on large holes of box grater and all liquid squeezed out with a dish towel (1 cup)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup finely minced onion
¼ cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 ½ cups panko bread crumbs
1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 inches vegetable oil in a 4 to 5-quart pot or Dutch oven
Prepared Marinara sauce, see our easy recipe here, or your favorite jarred variety
Cook the quinoa according to package directions, cool and reserve one cup. Set aside.
Grate the zucchini and squeeze out the water and measure out one cup. A little over is fine.
In a small sauté pan, heat olive oil and over medium heat, cook onions to soft, about 3-4 minutes. Cool and set aside.
Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl.
Add in cooled quinoa, zucchini, onions, parsley, oregano, basil, panko, Parmesan, Romano and salt and stir with a wooden spoon.
Use an ice cream scoop and scoop out 18 balls onto your cutting board. Then roll them into balls and place on a small sheet tray and refrigerate 45-60 minutes to firm up.
Fill a 4 to 5 quart pot or Dutch oven with about 4 inches of oil. Place a candy thermometer in the pot and heat to 365 degrees F.
Roll the balls again if they have a flat bottom and place in the hot oil using a slotted spoon and cook in two batches for about three minutes per batch or until browned (9 per batch). See notes below. Remove to a rack sitting over a pan and sprinkle on a little table salt while still hot.
Finally, either continue cooking all 18 in the oven for 10 minutes covered with foil, or cook in a pot of marinara sauce for 10 minutes to cook all the way through.
Serve with more marinara sauce and extra Parmesan cheese.
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When Lidia made her recipe, she made 36 smaller balls so she only needed to fry them. I made mine double that size so as a result, after frying, they need to continue to cook either in the marinara sauce for 10 minutes or in a 350-degree oven covered in foil (so the meatballs don’t brown too much) for 10 minutes to cook them all the way through.