Macheesmo

Cooking with Confidence
veg meatballs
Main Dishes, Pasta, Vegetarian

Meatballs Are Better Without the Meat

by Nick

You guys kick ass.

I’m completely shocked that a huge chunk of you voted for the vegetarian meatballs in the poll last week. Shocked and thrilled.

You know why? Because frankly, most meatballs suck. They all kind of taste the same and it’s hard to add a lot of flavors to them because you have to save room for all that meat.

This comes straight from the mouth of a meat eater, but sometimes a change can be really nice. This is one of those times.

While most meatballs can make you feel weighted down and blah, these vegetarian meatballs (veggieballs?) are nice and light but still have plenty of flavor.

They were completely delicious and vastly better than I was expecting.

Yield
Serves 4.
Prep Time
Total Time
Print Recipe

Spinach and Ricotta Vegetarian Meatballs

Spinach and Ricotta Vegetarian Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 Cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 Cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 1/2-2 Cups Italian breadcrumbs (plus some for rolling)
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Sauce:
  • 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (opt.)
  • 1 pound pasta (I like whole wheat spaghetti.)

Directions

1) Mix cheeses together with chopped spinach, oregano, and salt and pepper.  Add breadcrumbs and eggs.  Try not to add too many breadcrumbs.

2) Mix together lightly.  Then form Tablespoon-sized balls with the mixture.  Roll them lightly into a ball, coat them with some breadcrumbs, and set on a baking sheet.

3) To pan-fry veggieballs:  Add a few Tablespoons of oil into a large skillet.  Over medium-high heat, cook the balls turning occasionally until they are browned on all sides.

4) To bake veggiesballs: Add balls to a baking sheet lined with foil.  Drizzle all balls with a bit of oil and bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes turning every 10-15 minutes until they are lightly browned all around.

5) For sauce, add a drizzle of oil to a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook for a few minutes.  Then add garlic and tomatoes.  Stir in spices and balsamic vinegar and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add more water as it gets thick.

6) Before serving, add balls to the sauce and serve over pasta with extra Parm and chopped parsley.


Making the Meatballs

Because there’s no meat in these guys, there’s a ton of room for some other flavorful ingredients.

ball ingredients

What goes into a ball?

To make the veggieballs, chop the spinach and oregano and stir it in with the cheeses.

Yummy cheese.

If possible use a fine grater to grate the Parmesan so it kind of melts into the veggieballs.

parm cheese

Shredded.

Mix this all together and then add your eggs and just enough bread crumbs to pull it together. About 1 1/2 Cups should be enough but if you have very large eggs you might need an extra 1/2 Cup.

Stir this all together but try to keep the mixture nice and light.

ball mixture

Big bowl of balls.

Next, take a heaping tablespoon of the mixture and roll it into a ball. Make sure it holds together, but try not to press it together too much. Then roll the ball in some extra breadcrumbs and add it to a baking sheet lined with foil.

Cooking the Veggieballs

There are actually two ways to cook these guys: Baked or pan fried. I baked them this time around and they were good, but I think they might be a bit better pan fried.

If you want to pan fry, just add a bit of oil to a large skillet and add the veggieballs over medium high heat. Cook and turn until all the balls are lightly browned all around.

If you’re baking them, which is also delicious, then add all the balls to the baking sheet and drizzle on a bit of oil over each one.

You should end up with about 30 veggieballs.

rolled and oiled

A drizzle of oil is all you need.

Bake them at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes, turning every 15 minutes or so.

They should be nice and golden brown when you pull them out!

baked

I might pan fry next time…

Making the Sauce

It’s important to have a good sauce for these veggieballs. You can definitely use a jar sauce if you want but since you have to wait for the veggieballs to cook anyway, you might as well make some good tomato sauce from scratch.

This recipe also happens to be my go-to tomato sauce if you’re curious. It takes about 15 minutes to make and is really flavorful.

tomato sauce

A basic sauce.

In a medium-large pot, add a good drizzle of oil and then all your diced onion over medium high heat. Cook for a few minutes, then add the garlic followed by the diced tomatoes.

Then add the oregano, a pinch of salt and pepper, and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Let this simmer for about 20 minutes and as it gets thick, add a bit more water to keep it sauce. The tomatoes will break down a bit after a few minutes.

Taste it and adjust it to your liking.

When you’re about ready to serve this dish, add the veggieballs straight into the sauce, just like you would meatballs!

I was a bit worried that they would disintegrate in the sauce, but they held together just fine.

In the sauce

Bam!

Then serve the sauce and veggieballs over some pasta with some chopped parsley and Parm cheese!

garnish

Plus extra cheese and parsley of course.

This was definitely one of my favorite meals that resulted from a Friday poll. You guys picking a vegetarian meatball pushed me a bit and I was really happy with the result.

I would serve these to any meat eater and if they didn’t like it, they can take a hike!