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Beef-Quinoa-Veggie Meatballs, or Nana’s Meatballs, revised

October 25, 2012

Almost everyone I know has favorite family food memories.  One of mine is standing on a chair at the kitchen counter, helping my mom by mixing meatballs by hand.  The smell of oregano and garlic powder, the texture of dry breadcrumbs as they soften with the eggs and raw beef, the gumminess of the eggs as they slide around the bowl–I loved this.

[I also used to pinch samples to taste.  Apparently it didn’t make me ill.]

My mom, like many moms, has several favorite recipes that we all request her to make, even now that we are adults and fully capable of cooking our own food for her.  One of these recipes is my Nana’s meatballs (fitting that my mom is now also proudly a Nana, so the title can remain).

My Nana loved to cook, and making certain foods now reminds me of her as she used to be:  strong, nurturing, warm, comfortable.  In my opinion, everyone should have a grandmother like Nana.

If she could read this, she might be befuddled by my adaptations to her meatball recipe.  “What is kwee-NO-wah?” she would probably ask.  Here, quinoa seems to take the place of the wet bread she used to use, and some finely chopped veggies add nutrition and texture to the meatballs.  They taste close enough to my mom’s to fulfill my tastebuds’ nostalgia.  The babies love them.

Dear readers, what are your favorite family food memories?  I love hearing these stories.

Nana’s Meatballs, revised


  • 2 lbs ground beef (could also use ground dark turkey)
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1.5 cups cooked quinoa (i.e. the leftovers from cooking 1 cup of quinoa for quinoa cakes)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheese (I used the fontina-parmesan-asiago-provolone blend from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots (cut smaller if they are long strips)
  • 1 cup diced kale


  1. Saute the kale in a bit of olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
  2. Mix all ingredients (ideally by hand–more evenly blended that way).
  3. Shape into 1 to 1.5 inch balls and place on lined baking sheets (I line with foil).
  4. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Makes about 50 meatballs


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