Spaghetti and Meatballs is comfort food for a reason! I suppose because it's wrapped up in childhood memories and family meals. Every culture and family has different food traditions and thus different comfort foods, but somehow marinara with or without meatballs has made it's place as comfort food on American tables.
We created this recipe for The BEST Marinara and Vegan "Meatballs" as a nod to the desire for winter comfort food AND January health resolutions. It's really two recipes that can be used separately or together: recipes that can be made in-advance and frozen for rainy days or days when healthy meals are needed on the fly.
Use the marinara sauce recipe with whole grain noodles, zoodles or spaghetti squash.
Use it on tortilla pizzas, with pre-made cauliflower crusts or the old favorite of English muffin pizzas.
Use it with these "meatballs" or with your favorite meatballs.
Add lentils to the marinara sauce or crumbled tofu or tempeh. You get the idea....
The "meatballs" are just as quick and easy to make as the marinara sauce and can actually be made while the marinara is bubbling. Maybe you've decided to incorporate more meatless meals into the New Year, maybe you've got a family member or friend who doesn't eat meat, maybe you need to cut back on animal protein for health reasons, but whatever the reason, the ease and taste of these "meatballs" should inspire you to make them.
The BEST Marinara & Vegan Meatballs
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the onions and cook for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the onion and garlic are soft. Add the remaining ingredients, except salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until the oil is shimmering around the edges of the sauce. Add salt to taste (the amount will depend on whether or not your tomatoes were salted). Once sauce has cooled slightly, place into a blender and blend until smooth.
1 1/2 cups cooked beans (1 can black or pinto beans)
1 cup chopped portabello or crimini mushrooms
1 cup chopped onion
4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp fennel seeds (optional but adds a nice "sausage" flavor)
2-3 TB vegetable broth or water
2 1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 TB parsley
big pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup gluten-free vegan bread crumbs (from 2 slices of bread)
2 TB tomato paste
2 TB vegan worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp salt & fresh ground black pepper (plus more to taste)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rinse and drain the beans and then pat dry. Placed dried beans onto the baking sheet and move into the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the beans appear dry and a bit cracked.
Increase the oven temp to 375 degrees.
While the beans are baking, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushroom, onion, garlic, and fennel to the skillet. Let cook until the onion begins to stick and color. Add the vegetable broth and stir to deglaze the pan. Continue to cook until the mixture is softened and has some color.
Place the beans, veggie mix and remaining ingredients into a food processor fitted with an s-blade. Pulse until a textured dough forms. It'll be sticky but have noticeable pieces of the beans and veggies.
Shape into golf-ball sized balls and place on the parchment lined sheet used to cook the beans. Spray with olive or avocado oil and bake for 25-30 minutes. Rotate balls every 10 minutes during cooking.