Eggplant and Quinoa “Meat”balls with Onion and Butter Tomato Sauce

So I’ve had a weird craving for meatballs lately. Don’t know why. These things happen in life. It’s very rare that I ever eat meatballs and I can’t quite call myself a meatball girl. They usually sound like a good idea, but they’re usually a let down in the end. Either too dry…or just too…meaty?… Yes, this shouldn’t be a surprise considering they are MEATballs, but sometimes I’m just that way. I once tried making eggplants meatballs by following a recipe. I was sorely disappointed. They recommended pureeing the eggplant which, when all was cooked and tasted, it just made a funky, weird, mushy texture for me. Yuck, yuck.

Well, as I was saying, I’ve been having a hankerin’ for meatballs. One of those rare, weird things for me.. just like using the word “hankerin’.” Sometimes in a moment of desperation and/or craving, one conjures up brilliant beyond brilliant ideas (Parent Trap! Anyone?!). Yes! Eggplant meatballs that would in no way be held together by mushy eggplant or old bread crumbs; rather, they would be roasted (always my fave) and held together by some hearty, healthy, perfect-textured quinoa. Oh yum!

I set out to make sweet, sweet things happen in the kitchen. This usually ends either of two ways:

1. Brilliant! I’m a master of the kitchen!


2. Weird/funky/what-was-I-thinking-let’s-just-throw-that-away-and-eat-tacos.

This one turned out (surprisingly) in the #1 category!

I somehow made AWESOME “meat”balls from my own brain! SUCCESS! I then topped them with an absolutely incredible tomato sauce that I grabbed out of Saveur magazine. The stuff was glorious. Now, I realize that the tomato sauce does indeed call for a whole stick of butter; however, in my rule book, this is entirely acceptable when pairing it with all 100% nutritious food. It is my strict philosophy that there must, indeed, be give and take when cooking for both nutrition and maximum deliciousness.

Eggplant and Quinoa “Meat”balls 

A Finding the Kitchen original! 


  • 2 eggplants, sliced lengthwise
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ – 3/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried basil (but fresh would be better!)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (but fresh would be better!)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2.Slice the eggplant and sprinkle with salt, let sit for about 8 to 10 minutes to draw out the water.

3. Rinse the eggplant slices in water and pat dry.

4. Drizzle both sides of the eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle with some pepper. Pop them in the oven until they are cooked through.

5. Meanwhile, pour the quinoa and water in a small saucepan. Heat until beginning to boil, cover, and turn down the heat to low. Let cook about 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed.

6. Combine eggs, parmesan, garlic, herbs, and quinoa.

7. When the eggplant is ready, cut the slices into 1″ cubes and add to the quinoa mixture.

8. Spread some olive oil on a baking sheet. Form the eggplant mixture into golfball sized portions. This will be a bit tricky because it likes to fall apart easily. But, don’t worry! The egg will help all of it cook together just right.

9. Pop the “meat”balls in the oven and cook until they are firm and nicely browned, 30-40 minutes.

While these guys cook, get your tomato sauce rolling!

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter 

Adapted from Saveur (October 2012)

  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 28 oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring butter, sugar, tomatoes, and onion to a boil in a 4 quart saucepan over medium-high heat.

2. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld and sauce is slightly reduced, about 45 minutes.

3. Season with salt and pepper and discard the onion pieces. (However, I didn’t feel there was any sense in wasting them, so I chopped the onion and added the pieces to a kale saute.)


2 thoughts on “Eggplant and Quinoa “Meat”balls with Onion and Butter Tomato Sauce

  1. first of all – sounds great! quinoa is an inspired addition for “meat”balls!
    and I agree with the butter balancing out all that other nutrition.
    question on the sauce, you mention “save the onion” – do you strain it out of the tomato sauce before the final reduction?

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