Italian Marinara Quinoa with Turkey Meatballs


Boo Hoo Hoo Italian Quinoa and Turkey Meatballs Send Pasta Home Crying

I’m Italian. I love pasta, especially homemade. Reality check, it’s not the healthiest of foods. Whole grains kick its butt. Sorry pasta. You lose. No sense crying about it. “Move on,” as anyone in my family would tell you.

Gram liked my quinoa – especially in tomato sauce. I think she liked anything in tomato sauce. She always said, she could eat pasta every day. Her favorite food. She lived to be 90. She did something right. Lots of things, no doubt.

I don’t eliminate pasta from my diet, I just moderate it. Make whole grains the daily occurence, pasta the special event. The trick in an Italian family? Eating is a special event every freaking day. So, my healthier food has to be just as satisfying. Anything less, doesn’t cut it.

What I Love about this Italian Quinoa Recipe

Besides it being super easy and fast, it satisfies like pasta. Probably because the quinoa cooks in my sauce. You don’t have to use homemade sauce (although sweet Jesus, why wouldn’t you??).

You can use store bought (total blasphemy in my family, but hey, do what you will). I recommend using a brand where sugar and other preservatives are not listed in the ingredients. You’re looking for things like, tomatoes, basil, onion, garlic, salt, pepper…go figure. Not sugar, citric acid, xanthan gum (if your sauce requires an emulsifier I have to wonder if you’re making it right).

Italians harbor strong opinions about sauce – or gravy. I’m no different. Gram taught me how to make mine. I’ve made it my own, but I still honor the fundamentals of her sauce-making credo. More on that in my cookbook. (God willing.)

Follow the Kick Butt Italian Marinara Quinoa Recipe

Dairy-free, Egg-free, Gluten-free, Soy-free

Italian Marinara Quinoa Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (preferably homemade)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chopped basil
  1. Rinse the quinoa in a bowl or fine strainer until the water runs clear then drain.
  2. Over high heat bring tomato sauce and water to a boil.
  3. Once it boils, add the quinoa. Stir and reduce the heat to medium low, bringing the quinoa to a simmer.
  4. Let it cook covered for 15-20 minutes on low to medium low heat until all liquid is absorbed and it's tender.
  5. Once quinoa is cooked turn off heat. Let the quinoa sit for 5-10 minutes covered. Then fluff it with a fork.
  6. Mix in most of the chopped basil with the quinoa, reserving a couple tablespoons to top the quinoa when you plate it.
  7. Spoon into bowls.
  8. Top with fresh basil and serve.
  9. *For me, even though quinoa is a complete protein, adding my healthier meatballs completes this dish. But eat it how you like it!
Copywright: Angela Marinelli, Nourishment Connection 2013

Turkey Meatball Recipe

Dairy-free, Egg-free, Gluten-free, Grain-free, Soy-free

Turkey Meatballs
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 12
  • 1 lb ground turkey or bison
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • ⅓ cup yellow onion
  • ½ cup flat leaf parsley (pre-chopped)
  • ¼ cup basil (pre-chopped)
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 TBS pecorino romano cheese (or vegan parmesan cheese)
  • 3 TBS low sodium beef or chicken broth
  • ⅓ cup egg whites (OR 4 tsp ground chia or flax seeds in 4 TBS chicken or beef stock)
  • 2-3 TBS breadcrumbs, almond flour, or ground pepitas
  • 1 TBS unsweetened non dairy milk
  1. Put ground meat in a mixing bowl. Spread apart. Add salt.
  2. Put garlic, onion, parsley, basil, cheese (vegan or sheep's milk), red pepper flakes, broth, and milk in a food processor.
  3. Add ground chia or flax seeds and additional stock to food processor at this point as well if using instead of egg whites.
  4. Blend until all ingredients are finely chopped and it makes a slurry.
  5. Pour slurry onto ground meat.
  6. Add egg whites if using.
  7. Mix all ingredients into the ground meat with your hands until fully and evenly incorporated.
  8. Add bread crumbs, almond flour, or pepitas.
  9. Mix into the meat with your hands until fully incorporated.
Prepare to Cook:
  1. For best results, cover and refrigerate seasoned meat for at least 6-8 hours.
  2. When ready to cook, remove from fridge and form 3 ounce meatballs. (or whatever size you like)
To Fry:
  1. In a fry pan (I prefer an iron skillet), lightly coat pan with pure olive oil or avocado oil.
  2. Fry over medium to medium high heat until all four sides of the meatballs are brown (about 8-10 minutes).
  3. Option to transfer to sauce and let simmer on low for 15-10 minutes.
To Bake:
  1. Line meatballs on a baking sheet. Spray with olive oil.
  2. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes and transfer to your sauce.
  3. Let simmer on low in sauce for 15-20 minutes.
  1. Serve on top of Italian Marinara Quinoa.
  2. Option to top with additional sauce and basil. Enjoy!

The Short of It: Give Italian Marinara Quinoa with Turkey Meatballs a Chance

I think you’ll love it. The big takeaway: homemade pasta sauce elevates the dish. Bought pasta sauce: buy a good one. If you want to learn how to make pasta sauce let me know. That would be a long video…


2 Responses to "Italian Marinara Quinoa with Turkey Meatballs"
  1. Who doesn’t love a nice, encouraging comment? So here I am! Thanks for posting! I made Sunday meat sauce from our garden tomato harvest last fall and had quinoa. Yum. And yum. Topped with fresh onion and fresh grated Parmesan. Just yum. Thanks!

    • Erin,
      So glad you enjoyed! Your Sunday meat sauce sounds amazing and perfect for the quinoa. The fresh onion – what a great addition!! 🙂

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