Target Health Blog

Italian Veggie Balls, Served Over Pasta & Your Favorite Sauce

October 30, 2017

Target Healthy Eating

If you like to include a meatless Monday (or additional veggie dinners) in your weekly menus, here is one of my most delicious veggie recipes. It has evolved over a period of two or three years to what I now call Italian Veggie Balls. The sauce I recommend is not my marinara sauce, published in our newsletter many years ago, but a more recent tomato sauce, published recently to serve with seafood. This sauce has rich depth and is also perfect for meat or meatless recipes. Whenever Jules travels, he takes with him a large container of these Italian Veggie Balls, which he gives a score of A+. We both love this dish and have it about once a week. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


1 cup chickpea flour, to roll the balls in

1 cup quinoa

3 boxes mushrooms (cremini or Bella or white), well chopped

2 cups chicken stock or broth, or more if needed

4 eggs, whisked

1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

4 scallions, chopped

25 cloves garlic, minced

Pinch Kosher or sea salt

2 Tablespoons DRY oregano

2 Tablespoons fresh basil, very well chopped

2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, very well chopped

1 red chili, seeds removed, then chopped very well

4 cups steamed kale, chopped

1.5 cup Panko crumbs

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Make your favorite marinara or tomato sauce

Make capellini or your favorite pasta

Freshly grate extra parmesan for the table

Healthy and Easy to Find Ingredients.  ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


1. Make your marinara or tomato sauce first or the night before.

2. Get a pot with salted water, out to make your pasta, later, after you make the veggie balls.  You want the pasta to be freshly cooked and nice and warm, before serving.

3. Rinse the kale leaves three times, before steaming, to get all the sand and grit out.  After all the work cooking this wonderful recipe, it's terrible to sit down, take a bite, and have your teeth crunch down on even one grain of sand.  So, rinse, drain; rinse, drain; rinse, drain.

4. While you're rinsing the kale three times, do all of the cutting, chopping, grating, you need to do, so everything is ready for mixing, later.

Do all your cutting, slicing and chopping at the same time and on the same cutting board.  ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
Chopping the cilantro.  ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

5. After kale is rinsed and drained 3 times, steam it until it wilts and is reduced in volume.  Let it drain well before you use it.  In fact, before combining the kale with anything, after it drains well, give it a squeeze with paper towel so there's not too much liquid in the veggie ball mixture.

Steaming the kale.  ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

6. Rinse 1 cup of quinoa thoroughly and place the grains in a medium sauce pan with 2 cups of chicken stock or broth. Allow quinoa to soak for 15 minutes. Then, with the lid on the pan, bring the broth to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until quinoa is tender and has absorbed the liquid - about 20 minutes. Let cool to room temp.

Cooked the quinoa.  ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

7. While the quinoa is cooking, get out a nice looking pan that you will bring to the table and serve from. In this pan, sautee the chopped mushrooms, minced garlic, chili flakes, oregano and basil, in a mixture of olive oil and chicken broth or stock.  Sautee for about 5 minutes, stirring the whole time.

Sautee the mushrooms, onion, garlic, scallions, herbs and spices.  ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

8. When mushrooms & garlic are done, use a spatula to scrape every bit of the mushroom mixture out of the pan and onto a cutting board.

9. With a large knife, chop the mushroom mixture into very small pieces, as small as you can.  I did not want to use a food processor here, because by making a paste in the processor, you will lose a certain texture, that adds to the flavor.

Above is in the middle of chopping the mushroom mixture.  The pieces need to get just a little smaller.  ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

10. Into the same mixing bowl, add the cooked quinoa, eggs, 1 cup of parmesan, red chili chopped, salt, steamed kale, Panko crumbs and anything that you might have forgotten to add earlier. Let everything sit for a few minutes to absorb the liquid. You want the batter to be moist, but not runny.

Starting to make the batter; adding egg to the cooked quinoa in a large bowl.  ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
Here is what the batter should look like, done.  Now, you're ready to start making the Italian Veggie Balls. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

11. Get a large pan out to cook the veggie meatballs.

12. Sprinkle a little chickpea flour on a plate.

13. With your hands, form little balls and roll them in the chickpea flour.

With your hands, take a fingerfull of the batter and roll balls about the size of golf balls.  Then roll those balls in the chickpea flour until they're completely covered with a thin film of the flour.  Then fry them in batches in a skillet with enough room to move them around, without breaking them. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

14. Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cook about 6 veggie balls at the same time. Cover the pan and let the veggie balls cook for about 5 minutes, then roll them around so more of the sides get a nice brown color.  Cook another 5 minutes until the other-sides are a deep rich brown.

Cook the Italian Veggie Balls in extra virgin olive oil with enough room in the pan to move them around.  ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

15. When each batch is done, put them on a plate, while you finish the next rest.

16. When all the veggie meatballs are done and on a plate or in a serving bowl, fill the skillet with marinara sauce or other tomato sauce, over low flame. When sauce begins to simmer, put veggie balls in and warm everything up, so ready to serve over the pasta.

These Veggie Balls are done now and about to go into a pre-warmed serving bowl. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
Into a pre-warmed serving bowl.  ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

17. On the table, set a trivet out and bring the pan with veggie meatballs to the table to serve (over the pasta).  Garnish the veggie balls with some of the chopped basil or parsley.

Getting hungry just looking at these photos. Such a yummy, flavorful meal ! We love this and hope you do too. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
Good to the last bite.  Have your favorite bread with this meal, so you can sop up the wonderful sauce  ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

Relatives came over for dinner this weekend.  We started with a variety of appetizers (shrimp cocktail, mushroom deviled eggs, stuffed mushrooms, baked cauliflower/potato tiny nibbles).  We were drinking nicely chilled Bellini's, they chose red. First course was a simple garden salad (my recipe published several years ago), with fresh lemon juice & olive oil, warm French baguette and European butter. Next, my recipe for spinach pie (published several years ago). The entree was Italian Veggie Balls with Capellini and an extraordinarily rich tomato sauce. (My recipe for this sauce was published recently). We had two desserts made at home: my apple cheese cake recipe (published recently in the newsletter) and a chocolate cake (recipe by the great London chef, Yotam Ottolenghi, from Israel).  Our son, Alex, gave me a book of his recipes. We all had a wonderful time!

We saw the play, Junk, at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center. If you liked the Oliver Stone movie with Michael Douglas about Wall Street greed, called, Wall Street, you will probably like, Junk.  Junk is by playwright, Ayad Akhtar, the Pakistani-American, who won a Pulitzer Prize-for his memorable Broadway play (debut), “Disgraced,“ which we saw and liked immensely.  Watch for more works by this extremely talented writer.

Hope your weekend was stimulating, yet relaxing.  Note to the whole east coast for the next few days: watch out for unusually strong wind.  We've heard that New Hampshire may get 120 mile an hour, hurricane force wind, so stay indoors if you can.  Be careful.

We actually drank Bellini's from start of evening to finish, but don't necessarily, recommend that. Because of the earthiness of the Italian Veggie Balls and the richness of the sauce, you could easily pair a full-bodied cabernet sauvignon or a chilled white, which you see in the photo above.  ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

From Our Table to Yours

Bon Appetit!

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