Spaghetti with Mushroom Meatballs
Spaghetti and Meatballs is comfort food at its best but when meat is no longer on the menu, the challenge is how to make meatballs without meat, which almost sounds like an oxymoron. Except that mushrooms are often described as meaty which makes them perfect as a substitute in recipes calling for ground meat.
Mushroom meatballs are easy to put together and cook (they don’t fall apart) but the best part is the taste and texture. Crusty on the outside, moist on the inside, mushroom meatballs are so delicious that even non-vegetarians and non-vegans love them (my carnivore husband actually requests these).
The following meatball recipe is a variation on Chloe Coscarelli’s meatball recipe from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen. My version calls for less oil and garlic, no salt, more mushrooms, a heavy hand with additional spices (crushed red pepper and Italian Seasoning made with sweet basil, oregano, dried red bell pepper, thyme, fennel, anise seed, black pepper) and whole grain spelt flour instead of all-purpose flour. Don’t underestimate the importance of seasoning – spice heavily. With mild flavored ingredients – brown rice, spelt flour, and bread crumbs – seasoning becomes front and center along with the meaty mushrooms.
SPAGHETTI with MUSHROOM MEATBALLS (serves 4-6)
- 1 16-ounce bag of spaghetti
- 1 25-ounce jar of marinara or your favorite sauce
- 1 batch of Mushroom Meatballs (recipe below)
- 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley
- Make the mushroom meatballs (recipe below).
- While the meatballs are cooking, make the spaghetti and heat the sauce on the stove.
- Place the cooked spaghetti in individual pasta bowls. Pour the sauce over the pasta, toss, and then top with 2-3 meatballs.
- Sprinkle the chopped parsley over the bowls and serve immediately.
Mushroom Meatballs (makes approximately 18 meatballs, serves 4-6)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 12 ounces Bella, Cremini, or Portobella mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, pressed through a garlic press
- 1/2 cup of bread crumbs (I use leftover bread – preferably focaccia – put through a mini food processor but any bread crumbs will do)
- 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
- 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning (a blend of basil, oregano, red pepper, garlic, thyme, fennel, black pepper, and anise seed) or the seasoning of your choice (Note: Penzy’s, Whole Spice, and most grocery stores offer a container of blended spices – or blend your own)
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup whole grain spelt flour or all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 cups cooked brown rice, cooled
- Canola oil, for cooking
- Place the cooked brown rice, flour, basil, Italian Seasoning, hot pepper flakes, and bread crumbs in a food processor. Set aside.
- Place the olive oil in a non-stick skillet and heat to medium.
- Add the onions and sauté for 5-6 minutes until translucent.
- Add the garlic to the onions and cook for 1-2 minutes, being careful not to brown or burn the garlic.
- Remove the onions and garlic from the heat and scrap into the food processor.
- Place the non-stick skillet back on the burner and turn the heat to high.
- Add the mushrooms to the skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes until the moisture has been released and the mushrooms are nicely browned.
- Remove the mushrooms from the heat and add to the mixture in the food processor.
- Turn the food processor on for about 15 seconds. Stop, scrap the sides and process again for about 10 seconds.
- Place the meatball mixture in the refrigerator (don’t transfer to another bowl), cover with plastic, and chill for 2 hours.
- Wet hands and shape the mixture into round balls the size of an apricot and place on a piece of wax paper (there will be about 18 meatballs; resist the temptation to make them larger or the meatballs will loose their round shape).
- Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil to a large non-stick skillet and heat on medium.
- When the oil is hot, add the meatballs being careful not to crowd. Cover with the lid. Use a spoon to gently turn them every 3 minutes to brown all the sides (note: don’t turn the meatballs too early or the outside will stick to the non-stick pan) and until the entire exterior is cooked. The outside should be crusty and dark brown (note: the inside will still be moist). The total cooking time is about 12 minutes. Remove the meatballs and drain on a paper towel. Add an additional tablespoon of canola oil to the pan and repeat with the remaining meatballs.