Funny story about these meatballs, which is kind of one of those “recipe fails” that you decide to turn into a “lessons learned.”
Note to everyone: when you make quinoa crusted anything, you have to used cooking quinoa, not raw quinoa. You’ll see in these pictures, that the quinoa is very white. When you cook the quinoa first, it won’t be as white, it will be a lighter hue.
Now let me tell you what happened.
I’ve been seeing quinoa-crusted chicken fingers all over the ‘net lately.
Sidebar: a little factoid about me- I don’t like fried chicken or most fried foods. I know what you’re saying, “How can you NOT like fried food?” The truth is, my mother never really took us to fast food restaurants that served fried food. She cooked a lot and as a diabetic, she cooked very healthy, usually low-carb meals (fried food is definitely not low carb!)
When I got to college in North Carolina, my friends would go to Bojangles and I would always just get the biscuits (which is obviously not healthy at all), just because I truly didn’t have a palate for fried chicken.
What fried foods do I have a palate for? Fried calamari!
Anyway, the quinoa-crusted chicken fingers caught my eye, because, I figured, “if it’s going to be fried, it’s got to be healthier.”
However, this isn’t your typical food blog, so I had to stretch my creative muscles a bit, so I came up with a twist on “Chicken Parmesan” using chicken meatballs instead of a chicken breast and using the quinoa as a crust, instead of the parmesan-breadcrumb mixture it typically calls for. I sprinkled the tops of the meatballs with mozzarella cheese and an extra dusting of parmesan cheese and voila – chicken parm meatballs with a quinoa crust!
I was so excited to make the quinoa crust that I forgot to pre-cook the quinoa and I just threw it in the oven to bake, raw. Big mistake. To be honest, the meatballs still tasted fine, the quinoa was just a bit odd in terms of texture.
Luckily, I had just enough leftover meatball mixture and raw quinoa, so I quickly cooked the quinoa and baked it, while I formed the meatballs. The result? SO much better! The texture, the flavor, it was amazing – it tasted just like a beautifully crusted meatball, with just enough melted gooey cheese to give that “chicken parm” feel, without the uncomfortable heaviness that soon follows.
Unfortunately, I did everything hurriedly and ate the meatballs, that I didn’t have enough to rephotograph, so these photos are of the raw quinoa. Oh well, you live and you learn! At least I can tell you with 100% certainty that when you do follow this recipe through (it’s a little time intensive), you’ll be licking your lips.
What are your favorite types of meatballs?
Nutritional Information & Recipe
Zucchini Spaghetti and Quinoa Crusted Chicken Parmesan Meatballs
15 minPrep Time
1 hrCook Time
1 hr, 15 Total Time
2/3 cup cooked quinoa
1/4 cup dijon mustard
olive oil cooking spray
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons of dried oregano flakes
2 14.5oz cans of crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3 medium zucchinis, Blade C, noodles trimmed
For the meatballs:
1 pound ground chicken
4 tablespoons finely minced parsley + more to garnish
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese + more to garnish
salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano flakes
1 tablespoon dried basil flakes
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Spread the cooked quinoa out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake the quinoa for 25-30 minutes. Let cool and then transfer to a mixing bowl, breaking up any clumps. Afterwards, immediately, set the oven to 425 degrees.
While the quinoa is baking, place all of the ingredients for the meatballs together in a mixing bowl and mix until combined. Form 10-12 golf sized meatballs from the mixture and set aside on a plate.
Once the quinoa is done cooking, lightly coat the meatballs with the mustard and then dip the meatballs in the quinoa, coating well on all sides. Place the prepped meatballs back on a baking tray with a new sheet of parchment paper.
Spritz the meatballs with cooking spray and bake until cooked through, 15-20 minutes.
While the meatballs are baking, place a large skillet over medium heat and add in the olive oil. Once the oil heats, add in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Then, add in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until sauce fully reduces. Once done, set aside.
Once the meatballs are done (around same time as sauce) set aside and immediately set the oven to a high broil. Place about a teaspoon of the sauce on top of each meatball. Then, sprinkle the tops of the meatballs with the mozzarella cheese (the sauce should help the mozzarella keep in place) and place back into the oven. Cook for 1 minute or just until the cheese melts.
Plate the zucchini noodles into bowls and top with equal amounts of sauce and top finally with meatballs (3 meatballs per plate). Garnish with additional parmesan cheese and parsley.
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