veggie ‘meatballs’

veggie meatballsThe other day I watched a great episode of Chuck Eats the Street on the Cooking Channel where he visited Marabella Meatball Company in Philadelphia and sampled their famous vegetarian “meatballs”.  Using primarily cauliflower and broccoli as a replacement for beef and/or pork, most of the other ingredients are what you’d expect for achieving a moist and tender meatball.  The results looked ~ and apparently tasted ~ really good.

The following recipe is inspired by theirs ~ with the addition of various spices, cheeses and roasting the vegetables to bring that smokey, caramelized flavor I remember from traditional meatballs.  There are a few steps involved so I will break it down for as much clarity as I can.

Roast the following on a baking sheet at 375F in a sealed foil packet for 40 minutes, then open packet and continue roasting for another 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are soft {can be easily cut with a spoon}

  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
  • 7 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • Toss with 1/3 cup olive oil that’s been mixed with a pinch of s&p and a tablespoon of your favorite Italian Seasoning blend

When done roasting, use a slotted spoon to transfer vegetables from packet to a bowl, then take a couple of tablespoons of marsala wine or very dry sherry and splash it onto the bottom of foil packet.  Deglaze packet with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, scraping any and all brown bits and olive oil left on the foil; add to the bowl of vegetables and set aside to cool.


don’t forget those yummy brown bits

While vegetables are cooling, in a large glass or ceramic bowl whisk together the following dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup grated provolone
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts {optional}
veggie meatballs

cheesy breadcrumb mixture awaits its fate

Set dry ingredients aside; place the following into a food processor:

  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons date or fig preserves
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard

Pulse quickly once or twice, then add the bowl of roasted vegetables and pulse until combined but retaining some texture ~ not pureed.

vegetarian meatballs

cheesy veggie goodness ready to go

Using a rubber spatula, turn wet ingredients into the dry and gently fold until blended and formed into a large ball ~ don’t overmix.  Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then take out and preheat oven to 400F.

Line a baking sheet with foil and grease with olive oil; also have a small bowl/ramekin of olive oil beside you.  Using a small ice cream scoop or a soup spoon/tablespoon, place a scoop of mixture into your hands and roll between palms to form a pingpong-sized ball.  Gently dip ball into the ramekin of olive oil and roll again between your palms to coat the ball with the oil.  Set each ball onto the oiled baking sheet; bake at 400F for 30 minutes, until golden brown.

The top photo is how they looked when they just came out of the oven; at this point they tasted like a combination of a meatball, a falafel and a dumpling.  How they’ll taste from here will be based on which type of sauce you serve them with.  To me they’d be great in an Indian-style cream sauce or even a brothy Asian mix.

I decided to heat up some marinara sauce and place the “meatballs” into the sauce pot so they could soak up and plump up.  Then I transferred that mixture into a lasagne pan, topped it with mozzarella and baked it off for about 35-40 minutes, until brown and bubbly.

A hunk of bread for making a sub sandwich, along with some red wine, made this a tasty veggie version of a traditional Italian meal.

vegetarian meatball sub


6 comments on “veggie ‘meatballs’

  1. soffiagudrun says:

    This would be great for italian “meatball” sub. What are you drinking there?Concha y toro? I love the glass you are drinking from, very spanish. For the atmosphere we sometimes drink from glasses like that.

    • oh yes a mighty fine sub ~ we made cheesy garlic bread, i’d like to try them with linguini too. concha y toro! you guessed it, a great “house wine” red at an amazing price.

      thanks, the glasses are called “working glasses” from france, also for an amazing price ~ i love them

  2. jonathanochart says:

    I’m definitely showing this recipe to my vegetarian friend. She’s always trying to figure out how to make “mock meat” foods rather than purchasing the frozen veggie burgers all the time, and I think she’ll love this – it looks fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing!

    – Jonathan I

    • thanks and thank you for visiting! i agree the frozen veggie burger thing needs an update ~ i haven’t tried this recipe yet in a patty form or a meatloaf but i definitely plan on it. lots of ways to spice it up differently and shape into however works for your meal ideas.

  3. As a veggie for many years I think this sounds great even for meat eaters to try.

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