I am told by my husband that I make some killer meatballs. However, I can’t confirm this myself. You see, I stopped eating red meat and pork when I was about 13 years old because I just didn’t like it. For the most part my Italian family was fine with this decision except for one thing- my not eating meat also included no longer eating meatballs. Grandmother= not happy.
My mom used to tell me that it’s ok to have them, it’s Sunday. I tried to explain that my decision to eat meat wasn’t like Lent and there were no cheat days. Eventually, my mom and relatives understood my desire not to eat meat. We were able to live harmoniously- they’d make their Sunday Sauce (yes sauce, not gravy) and flavor it with meatballs, sausage, pork butt, etc, and I’d pick out the meat chunks. On holidays my family would hook me up with a Mandy-friendly dish and all was cool.
When I met my husband he was OK with my non-meateating ways. But he was always really excited to go to my parents or aunt’s house so he could get the good stuff- homemade meatballs. Eventually my mom passed down her family’s prized meatball and Sunday sauce recipe to me (which will NEVER be featured on this blog out of respect for my family, so don’t ask). My husband was excited to have some homemade meatballs in the house, but the truth is I wind up making so many meatballs, that they live in freezer for way too long. So it was time to find a way to enjoy meatballs together as a family again.
While I enjoy chicken or turkey meatballs, they’re just not the same when you add them to tomato sauce. I had some extra mushrooms leftover from another recipe, so I decided to look into experimenting with mushrooms as my base for the meatballs. The end result turned out to be something magical. When I tested them on my #1 taste tester, my husband found them to be (in his words) “pretty darn good”. While he knew there wasn’t meat in there, he said unless you told him, he wouldn’t think they’re be completely meatless. These low calorie, low-fat meatless balls are a great swap to traditional meatballs which tend to be higher in fat and cholesterol. Add this source of protein to your next Sunday meal with the family and see if grandma can tell the difference.
When preparing the meatballs, I highly recommend using latex gloves. They are not only more sanitary when it comes to working with your hands, but it prevents the mixture from getting stuck to your hands and under fingernails (eww!).
As an Italian, it is a sin to use jarred tomato sauce in our house. While I won’t think differently if you chose to use a pre-made sauce, I’ve also included a recipe to a quick marinara sauce recipe to step up your homemade game.
Give these meatless meatballs a shot for your next Meatless Monday meal and let me know what you think in the Comments below.
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- 2 TB olive oil divided
- 1 lb fresh white mushrooms or mixture white and cremini mushrooms (See Notes)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1 oz finely shredded or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese See Notes
- 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs See Notes
- 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley, packed
- 2 eggs divided (See Notes)
- 2 TB olive oil
- 3 cans crushed tomatoes 28-oz each
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- Dried oregano parsly, basil
Heat 1 TB olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms to the hot oil, sprinkle with salt, and cook and stir until liquid from mushrooms has evaporated. Stir 1 TB olive oil into mushrooms, reduce heat to medium, and cook and stir mushrooms until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Stir onion into mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir garlic into mushroom mixture until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl.
Mix oats into mushroom mixture until thoroughly combined. Gently stir 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into mixture. Add bread crumbs, 1/4 cup parsley, and 1 egg. Mix together with a fork until crumbly. Stir in remaining 1 egg. Mixture should hold together when pressed.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours. For best flavor and texture, refrigerate overnight (see Notes).
While the meatballs are setting, prepare the marinara sauce. Heat olive oil in large pot on medium high heat, add garlic and heat 1 min till just before starts browning. Add cans of crushed tomato and stir. Sprinkle dried spices on top creating a thin layer covering the top of the sauce. Allow sauce to come to a boil. Once it starts boiling, turn heat down to low and simmer 1.5 hours, stirring frequently. Allow sauce to cool completely before storing in fridge if you will be making the meatballs another day.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
Form mixture into small meatballs using a 2-tablespoon scoop (approx 1-1.5" diameter). Roll meatballs lightly between your hands until smooth, if desired; arrange meatballs on prepared baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven until meatballs are lightly golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Meatballs should be firm to the touch.
Bring pasta sauce to a boil in a large saucepan; reduce heat to low. Gently stir meatballs into sauce until coated. Simmer meatballs in sauce until cooked through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer to a serving bowl
Optional: garnish with 1 tablespoon Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and 1 tablespoon parsley.
To quickly chop the mushrooms, place small batches of quartered mushrooms in a food processor and pulse quickly 8-10 times, scraping sides then pulse a few more times if large chunks are still present. Do not pulse to a liquid consistency.
For a gluten-free option, use cooked quinoa in place of breadcrumbs.
For vegan meatballs. use an egg replacement of 1 TB chia seeds to 3 TB for each egg. GO Veggie(R) dairy-free parmesan cheese can be used in place of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Bake meatballs for twice the suggested cooking time. Meatballs should have a firm texture when gently squeezed.
Meatballs will shape best the longer they are left in the fridge. Mixture can be placed in fridge 3-5 days before preparing meatballs.
Recipe adapted from Chef John.
2 meatballs= 152 calories, 6g fat (1g sat fat), 16g carbs, 1g fiber, 8g protein, 128 mg sodium (Source: SELF Nutrition Data)