Once upon a time, when I first became vegan, I expected I’d miss the kind of pasta sauce my mom used to make – the kind I made too, with ground beef in it.
Funny how things change over time. My palate was one of them, and after only a few short months.
Now, foods made with animal products sound completely (and I mean completely) unappetizing. Vegans get this phenomenon, but it’s a little hard to explain to anyone who still eats meat.
But importantly, during that transition, and for some number of months (maybe even years), a variety of commercially-made meat substitutes found their way into my kitchen as I experimented to find familiar flavors and textures. I still recommend them to clients, because bridge foods can be a terrific tool to help you get from here to there – from a fat-filled meat-laden diet to new heart-happy habits.
Nowadays, there are actually so many meat look-alikes and taste-alikes on the market that it would take a long time to test them all. I admit that I have no interest in them anymore. Instead, I actually crave real food, made with simple plant-perfect ingredients.
That brings me to these Non-Meatballs. After trying lots of recipes for homemade meatless meatballs, I stumbled onto this one. I found others too spicy or sweet, bland, soft, dry. You get the idea. Until these. As Goldilocks might have exclaimed, these are just right. Made with beans, rice, oats, and vegetables, they have great flavor, and an outstanding texture that’s sort of crisp on the outside and chewy inside. Plus, it’s real food. The kind our bodies are meant to eat.
I love Non-Meatballs with any pasta shape (not limited to spaghetti) and a favorite homemade red sauce like this one or this one. Last time I made a batch, even I was surprised at just how very good these were! I easily ate four (maybe five) straight from the oven (adorned by neither sauce nor pasta) before managing to get the remainder onto a serving platter and over to the dinner table. They were a hit with everyone, and I hope you love these as much as we do.
SPAGHETTI AND NON-MEATBALLS
Inspired by Happy Herbivore Holidays and Gatherings, by Lindsay Nixon
Makes 20 to 40 non-meatballs, depending on size
1 can kidney beans
, rinsed and drained
1/4 of a medium onion (approximately 1/4 cup)
1 small clove of garlic, peeled
1 carrot, scrubbed or peeled
1 cup of cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons Braggs Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire Sauce
6 splashes hot sauce (or to taste)
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried basil
generous sprinkle kosher salt
3/4 cup quick oats (not rolled)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Mash kidney beans in a large mixing bowl until mostly smooth, with some half bean shapes remaining.
In a food processor, pulse onion, garlic, and carrot until finely minced. Transfer vegetables to the mixing bowl. Add rice, Braggs, mustard, Worcestershire Sauce, hot sauce, seasonings, and oats. Combine ingredients well.
Use your hands to shape into walnut-size balls (or smaller) and bake on prepared baking sheet for 25 to 35 minutes, or until meatballs are crispy and golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. They will firm as they cool. Serve over hot pasta smothered with your favorite marinara sauce.