Spaghetti and meatballs. It is a standard and everyone loves it. Delicious, flavorful, slightly spicy meatballs coated in a yummy marinara sauce.
How do you get this as a vegetarian? You can purchase prepared frozen meatless meatballs. They are fine but a little bland. What if you want to make them yourself? Ah…there is my quest. There are lots of recipes for veggie burgers and veggie meatballs. Many use black beans as a meat replacement. I have tried these and they are ok, but not spectacular.
It occurred to me that mushrooms, especially portabella mushrooms have a very meaty taste and texture. I did some searching for meatballs made from mushrooms. I found recipes for burgers made from mushrooms and I adapted a couple of these in my search for the perfect vegetarian meatball.
These are still a work in progress. The flavor is excellent. The texture (or mouth feel) is close, but a little too mushy – not firm like a real meatball. So I am still working on it.
1 cup breadcrumbs (I make my own by drying old bread – heels and odd buns no one will eat and running them through the food processor. They keep nicely in the freezer)
1 pound whole mushrooms – make it a mixture of cremini (baby bellas), white, shitake)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
Clean and stem the mushrooms, then thinly slice them.
Sauté the mushrooms and thyme in the olive oil over medium heat. You want to cook them until they have released all of their moisture and that moisture is cooked off. This takes 15-20 minutes. Once the moisture is cooked off, add the balsamic vinegar and sauté until it has evaporated. You want there to be as little moisture in the pan as possible.
Transfer the mushroom to the food processor and chop to a course grind.
In a medium mixing bowl combine the ground mushrooms, breadcrumbs, and salt. This should be a fairly thick mix so you can form balls that hold together.
Shape into small balls (mine are about 2 inch mushroom balls).
Add the mushroom balls to a skillet of preheated olive oil (about 2 Tablespoons – just make sue you cover the bottom of the pan). Cook until the mushroom balls are well cooked an all side – a little crispy even. I let them cook while I boiled water and cooked the pasta and heated up the jarred pasta sauce.
These are really yummy in taste. I would like to improve the texture. Future experiments with these will include adding egg to the mushroom mixture as if I were making traditional meatballs (still vegetarian, but not vegan). I may also try adding some grated Parmesan cheese to the mushroom ball mixture. I will keep updating this until I get it just right.