Spaghetti & Beanballs: A Vegetarian Take on an Old Classic

A love for cooking definitely runs in my family. Growing up, my mom and aunt always prepared the most delicious meals; it served as a true inspiration to my culinary adventures. They had “go-to” recipes but still weren’t afraid to experiment – sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. Either way, you still have fun mixing it up in the kitchen, right?

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am the only vegetarian in my family – so reconstructing those family favorites was quite a task. If there was one dish my mom is known for, it would definitely be her meatballs. I can’t remember a family event when she wasn’t asked to bring a batch. Considering that I’m not “afraid” of meat (I just don’t eat it) and that my boyfriend is a die-hard meat fan, I decided to make a batch for him.

I was then inspired to not just create a vegetarian version, but a VEGAN one! I’m not a vegan, but some of my favorite dishes I’ve made happened to be vegan. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot – besides, the “meatball” is simply an accessory to a spaghetti dish, right?

Well, it turned out that not only were the vegetarian meatballs easy to make, they were DELICIOUS! Even Nick liked them!  I pulled the recipe from my handy dandy Veganomicon – whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian or meat-eater, I highly recommend this book. It is chock full of hearty and satisfying recipes. I actually made two recipes from this book, Spaghetti and Beanballs (p. 189) and Homemade Marinara Sauce (p. 205).

Ingredients:

For Homemade Marinara Sauce:

2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 t thyme
1/4 t oregano
1/2 t salt
couple grinds of black pepper

 

For Beanballs:

20 oz. can of cooked kidney beans
1/4 c. vital wheat gluten
1/2 c. bread crumbs
2 T. olive oil
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. steak sauce or tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated
1/4 t. lemon zest
1/2 t. oregano
1/4 t. thyme

The Method:

For sauce:

  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on medium-low.  Add the garlic and cook about a minute.  Don’t let it burn.
  2. Add the rest, cover, bring to simmer over medium heat, then turn it down to low and simmer 15 minutes.

For Beanballs:

  1. Preheat oven to 375* and spray rimmed baking sheet with oil.
  2. Mash kidney beans using potato masher or food processor. I used my food processor and it worked well. Some beans were left whole and that was OK with me. Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix together. Knead with your hands for about a minute once combined.
  3. Roll into balls – I got about 20 out of this using 3 cups of beans – and place on baking sheet. Spray beanballs with a little more oil. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip and bake again for 10 minutes.
  4. The book says to cover them in the sauce and baked them again for 5 minutes. I decided to just let them simmer in the sauce for a couple of hours since that’s what my mom’s recipe called for. It turned out fantastic – less clean-up and a more flavorful ball!
  5. Now the only cooking left to do is cook that pasta according the directions on the package.
  6. I topped my plate off with some vegan Parmesan by Rice Dream – it actually tastes a lot like Kraft grated parmesan.
  7. Now, pour a glass of wine. Sip. Eat. Enjoy.

Broccoli Gruyere Pasta Bake

 

I decided to forgo the gym yesterday – the weather was just so rainy that it just felt better snuggled up on the couch next to my pup Eleanor and watching the SVU Marathon that is on constant record.  I know what you’re thinking… I live in AZ – the desert – how much rain could you possibly get? Well, it wasn’t so much the rain that prevented me from journeying to LA Fitness, it was the intense dust storm and powerful winds that prevented me from even opening my front door. Basically, the weather held me hostage, which I was okay with.

So I busted out my emergency bottle of red wine and indulged in this pasta dish:

 

Broccoli Gruyere Pasta Bake

The ingredients:

  • 1 lb penne or any pasta
  • 1 red onion , roughly chopped
  • 1 lb head broccoli , stalks chopped and florets halved
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 1 tsp French or German mustard
  • 1 cup pot half fat crème fraîche
  • 1/2 c grated mature Gruyère or cheddar
  • small handful parsley leaves, chopped
  • 4 tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs (or put 1 slice crustless white bread through a food processor)
  • 1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs or thyme
  • Parmesan, optional

The method:

  1. Boil the pasta, onion and broccoli stalks in plenty of lightly salted boiling water for about 7 mins, then add the florets and cook for another 3 mins. Reserve about 1 1/2 cup of the water, then drain the pasta and vegetables.
  2. Return the reserved water to the pan and dissolve the stock cube, whisk in the mustard and crème fraîche, then season to taste. Bring to the boil. Stir in the drained pasta, vegetables and half the cheese, mixing until melted. Stir in the parsley.
  3. Heat the broiler for 3 mins. Tip the pasta and vegetables into a shallow, ovenproof dish. Mix together the remaining cheese, breadcrumbs and herbs, then scatter on top.
  4. Broil for 3-5 minutes, turning if it starts to brown. Keep watching so the top doesn’t start to burn or the cheese will toughen. Remove and leave to stand for 5 mins before serving.

Summer Skillet Pasta

So, I’m not a huge fan of zucchini. There’s something about its vibrant color that makes you think you’re biting into a veggie that’s packed full of flavor. It’s actually the same way I feel about eggplant. However, the Whole Foods by my work had the most beautiful zucchini arrangement last week and I couldn’t help but buy one and hope that I that I find a yummy recipe to put it in. Turns out, I did.

I introduce to you, Summer Skillet Pasta. I took this recipe from one on of my favorite blogs, Iowa Girl Eats. Her recipe calls for chicken sausage, but since I am a vegetarian, I decided not to use that ingredient (obvi). I know that there is some yummy vegetarian sausage at every grocery store, and I’m going to be honest with you ­– I was too lazy to get it. In my opinion, omitting that spicy sausage flavor didn’t take away from the dish at all.

This skillet took about 20 minutes to make, so it was perfect. (Did I mention how lazy I was feeling that day?)

Summer Skillet Pasta:

Ingredients:

8 oz penne, dry (or any pasta)
1/2lb spicy chicken sausage
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 shallot, sliced
1 zucchini, halved and sliced
salt & pepper
10oz cherry tomatoes
fresh basil
Romano or parmesan cheese, if desired

The Method:

1. Heat the skillet over medium and add extra virgin olive oil to the skillet. Add garlic slices and shallots and cook until they start to turn golden brown, about 1 minute. Add zucchini, season with salt and pepper, then saute until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add cherry tomatoes then place a lid on top of the skillet and allow tomatoes to get hot and tender, about 3 minutes, stirring once or twice.

2. Meanwhile, cook penne in a large pot of salted boiling water. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water before draining.

3.. Add some of the pasta cooking water to create a sauce and make sure pasta isn’t sticking together Serve topped with torn fresh basil, and grated Romano or Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Creamy Caprese Pasta

There is something about the flexibility of the word “caprese” the sparks my immediate interest whenever I’m looking through recipes. I’ve made caprese skewers, caprese pizza and of course, the world-famous caprese salad. My roommate and her father can vouch for my overwhelming love for plump tomatoes. Her dad grows them himself and they are so perfectly ripe that I MUST cook with them.

 

After receiving my latest batch of tomatoes, I stumbled across yet ANOTHER version of caprese – Creamy Caprese Pasta. The flavors of the plump tomatoes, fresh basil and ooey-gooey mozzarella complement each other so well – not to mention, it was really easy to make and cheap too AND it’s carnivore approved – right Nick? I’m a mean girlfriend and didn’t pair any meat with this dish, but I think it was rich enough to satisfy the taste-buds of a hungry bear boyfriend J.

 

If I can offer one more tip, make a HUGE batch of this stuff. It keeps well and is perfect as lunch the next day or even for dinner with a fresh salad. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound whole wheat pasta (noodles such as penne work best)
  • 1 cup of your favorite pasta/tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream or half and half
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese + more for garnish
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes (I cut some in half and left some whole)
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil leaves

The Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Boil water and cook pasta according to directions.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat tomato sauce over low heat in a large saucepan. Once warm, stir in heavy cream and grated parmesan.
  3. Once pasta is done cooking, drain and dump into the sauce, mixing to coat and turning off heat.
  4. Fold in mozzarella cubes and tomatoes, then chop 3-4 fresh basil leaves and add them in too.
  5. Once combined, spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and pour the entire pasta mixture into the dish. Top with fresh mozzarella rounds.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes, or until cheese is golden and bubbly.
  7. Top with additional fresh basil and grated cheese.

Baked Gemelli with Pecorino and Smoked Mozzarella


Yeah… so you may have noticed that I’m kind of in the middle of a love affair with smoked cheeses. They are just so gosh darn yummy!

Since it’s birthday season in my world, my wallet has been a little tight – not to mention Mondays are usually very long days for me with work, gym, boy toy, loving on my dog… you get the picture. I had slacked on my running schedule over the weekend so I really pushed myself yesterday. When I left the gym, all I really wanted to eat was a big heaping bowl of pasta. I wanted a recipe that was full of flavor but required minimal effort.

Enter the simple and oh-so-scrumptious Baked Gemelli. As simple as it was, this is one of my favorite things I’ve made so far. I think Nick would have to agree…

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dried Gemelli pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 cups My Favorite Tomato Sauce (or any type of tomato/marinara sauce)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino romano
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, half cut into 1/2-inch cubes and half thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound smoked mozzarella, half cut into 1/2-inch cubes and half thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. EVOO
  • Thyme, to taste (I like A LOT)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper or to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously, and boil the pasta until al dente, tender but still slightly firm. Drain.
  2. While the pasta is boiling, heat the EVOO in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and thyme. Saute until the onions are transparent, about 5 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with the tomato sauce, sauteed onion/garlic/thyme mixture, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, the pecorino, and the cubed mozzarella pieces. Season with the black pepper and red pepper to taste, and mix until well combined. Transfer the pasta to an oiled 9- x 13-inch baking dish. Cover the top of the pasta with the sliced mozzarella, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake until lightly browned and hot, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Meatless Monday: Stromboli Night

In my house (and mind) you can’t go wrong with cheese. Let’s just say if I were Barney Stinson, and you challenged me to eat nothing but cheese for the rest of my life, I’d have no choice but to say, “Challenge accepted,” with a big cheese-eating grin on my face. I’m sure Nick wouldn’t be the happiest with the results of said challenge, but I suppose he’d just have to deal. ;)

All jokes aside, a stromboli recipe never fails to exhilarate the taste buds and this recipe did just that. We both made the same exact recipe except Nick added some chicken to make it man-cub friendly. With it’s bubbly cheesy goodness, fresh herbs and crispy crust – this recipe will be repeated, no doubt.

And of course, there is only one word to describe this recipe: Legend-DAIRY.

Ingredients:

(Makes 1 stromboli; for non-vegetarian stromboli, add 2 cups shredded chicken)

1 pizza dough ball
1/2 cup Pesto Sauce
2 cups Spinach
1/2 cup Hothouse Tomatoes, sliced
2 cups Shredded Mozzarella
1/2 cups Grated Parmesan Cheese, divided
1 tsp. Garlic Salt
1 tsp. Truffle Oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
Marinara sauce for dipping
Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, on greased counter roll out dough to a rectangle, about the size of a cookie sheet.
2. Spread Pesto all over leaving a 1 inch space from edge
3. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Parmesan on top of pesto. Sprinkle Mozzarella the layer of spinach, last your tomatoes and peppers. This is also where you would add the chicken if making non-vegetarian.
4. Now roll, jelly roll style,  starting at the long end so the end result is a big tube.
5. Place on a greased cookie sheet, make sure seam is on the bottom.  Tuck ends under.
6. Brush with egg. Sprinkle with Parmesan and Garlic Salt.
7. Cut slits along the top to vent
8. Bake until golden brown, 20-30 minutes.

Roasted Garlicky Green Beans

I’ve never claimed to be a “healthy” vegetarian. For those of you who know me, you know that I’m a carbohydrate fiend. I simply would not be able to live without my pasta and bread. However, eating a strictly carbohydrate-based diet will undoubtedly cause weight gain and all sorts of health issues. But I must admit that dressing up some simple veggies, like these yummy Green Beans above, with some parm and truffle oil makes what you used to try to hide under mashed potatoes, your favorite option on the plate. I got this recipe from Skinny Taste, and the recipe claims to be kid-approved; I totally believe it. I think we may have just solved every mother’s crisis when butting heads with their toddler at the kitchen table. Kids: Eat your veggies!

Ingredients:

12 oz green beans, trimmed (make sure they are dry)
2 tsp truffle oil
kosher salt + fresh cracked pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tbsp shredded parmesan

 Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum for easy clean-up.
  2. Lay green beans out on the baking sheet and drizzle oil over them. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder and toss to evenly coat.
  3. Spread them out on the sheet so that they all lay flat and place on the lower third section of your oven. Bake 10 minutes, shake the pan to turn; bake 5 additional minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with grated cheese.