Beef and quinoa meatballs with tomato sauce

I first heard of The Dinner ladies when I had my son in 2015. My then co-workers gifted me a very generous voucher that kept my husband and I fed for what felt like some of the longest months of my life. Since then, they have regularly featured in my freezer as delicious back up meals for when I can’t be bothered to cook. And now, once again in my postpartum haze, they have made a significant come back in my life. 

The Dinner Ladies have been making cooking and delivering delicious homemade dinners to families across NSW, the ACT and Victoria since 2007. Wholly owned and run by two Sydney mothers, Katherine and Sophie, the Dinner Ladies are launching a new range of toddler dinners, aimed at the trickiest, messiest and most adorable eaters in the house. With no added sugar, salt, preservatives or other rubbish, plus plenty of protein and hidden vegies, these dinners are made exactly as you would make them yourself.

Here’s a sample recipe from the new toddler range – give it a go (or order it online from July 22nd!).

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Beef and quinoa meatballs with tomato sauce

by the Dinner Ladies

This recipes hides a bit of fruit and veg, sneaks in some extra nutrition with quinoa and is a bit of fun to eat for toddlers who like to dunk. You can also toss the meatballs and sauce through pasta. For older children or a family dinner, feel free to add some salt – we’ve left it out for the under threes.

Makes 20-25 meatballs plus sauce

Ingredients

70g quinoa
15ml ml olive oil
One quarter of an onion, peeled and diced
300ml tomato passata
Half a green apple, peeled and diced
2 small carrots, peeled and diced
Few leaves of basil, chopped
Half a clove of garlic, minced
335g beef mince
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Pinch of ground cumin
1 heaped tablespoon Parmesan, grated
1 egg, whisked

Method

Rinse the quinoa and cook it according to the instructions on the packet. Set aside to cool, then chill in the refrigerator.

Heat half the oil in a small saucepan over a low heat and cook the onions until soft.

Add a tablespoon of the diced apple, half the carrots and the tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes before stirring in the basil. Blitz with a stick blender and set aside.

For the meatballs, heat the remaining oil in a small saucepan over a low heat and add the garlic with the remaining apple and second half of the carrots. Cook until soft then set aside to cool, then chill in the refrigerator.

In a stainless steel mixing bowl, mix the chilled carrot/apple mix with the cooked quinoa and the beef mince, along with the tomato paste, cumin, grated parmesan and egg. Stir thoroughly so that the mix is well combined and the protein in the meat develops so that the meatballs hold together.

With wet hands, roll smallish meatballs – a bit smaller than a ping pong ball – and lay on a baking-paper-lined tray. Cook in a preheated 200C oven for 8-10 minutes or until browned and cooked through.

Serve with a ramekin of the tomato sauce on the side for dunking – or heat the sauce up with the meatballs in a saucepan and toss through pasta.

Laura Ruston

Mum to Harvey. Wife to Dave. Founder of MUMOKI. Art lover, design obsessed, lipstick hoarder.