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).


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.

Mustard Crusted Tofu

I do enjoy a lazy Sunday- make that lazy weekend. It’s true, this morning’s alarm clock brutally awoke me from a weekend of sheer nothing-ness only to catapult me back to the typical 9 to 5 (I actually work 8 to 5, but let’s not be that specific) lifestyle. Now on to the fun stuff: the food.

Nick was in Tucson all weekend visiting some friends and playing golf – so I had the weekend all to myself. I spent the weekend lunching with the family (I’ll be posting about my favorite veggie burger later this week), going to the gym like an all-star and finally – cooking! Well to be honest, the only time I went all out in the kitchen was after Nick got back. What can I say?  I rule at being a girlfriend.

I had been waiting to try this Mustard Crusted Tofu recipe for quite some time – something about the crunch and that lovely Dijon flavor just sounded fabulous. I had also stumbled upon the same exact recipe for salmon, so I figured it was worth a shot for the two of us. Nick loves salmon… which makes sense since he is a hungry bear boyfriend.

Any who, whether you make the tofu or the salmon, it’s a very simple and versatile dish – I don’t think there is side dish out there that would pair with this nicely. I just made my usual sautéed greens and some Lemon-Herb Rice (check back later in the week for this recipe). Bon appetit!

Mustard Crusted Tofu:

The Ingredients:

  • 1 14-ounce package extra firm tofu
  • 5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  •  panko bread crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

The Method:

  1. Wrap the block of tofu in a clean towel, place the tofu in a colander and place the colander in the sink. Place a plate, heavy can or other weight over the towel-covered tofu and leave the weight to press the tofu for 30 minutes. Refer to my Tofu tutorial if needed.
  2. Remove the tofu from the towel. Cut the tofu crosswise into 4 slices and then cut each slice diagonally so you have 8 triangles. Set aside.
  3. Put the broiler on. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Place the Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar and honey into a food processor. Process until smooth. Pour the Dijon mixture into a shallow plate or baking dish.
  5. Place the bread crumbs, panko, salt and pepper together on a separate plate.
  6. Dip each pressed tofu slice (or salmon) into the mustard mixture, coating well on both sides. Then place the tofu in the bread crumbs, taking care to make sure the tofu is well coated. Place on the baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes per side, or until the tofu is crispy and golden on both sides.*

*It just so happened that the salmon and the tofu needed to cook for the same amount of time. Gotta love that!