Sunday, February 19, 2012

Vegetarian Meatballs

This recipe makes use of our very versatile mushroom meat. This is the stuff we use in place of ground beef in any recipe in order to vegetarianize it, and it's much more natural than commercially available ground beef substitutes. These meatballs made with mushroom meat are a hit over and over again in our house. We serve them on top of spaghetti, my wife's favorite, but mostly, I prefer sneaking them one at at time, popping a really too-hot-to-eat meatball into my mouth while the pasta is cooking. They also make a great little vegetarian appetizer for a party. How would you serve them?

Vegetarian Meatballs
(makes about 3 dozen small meatballs)

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 cups mushroom meat
2 large eggs (beaten)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (less if you don't like spiciness)
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons olive oil (for drizzling)
about 1/2 cup of good-quality tomato sauce (for brushing)

In a large mixing bowl, combine cheese, breadcrumbs, mushroom meat, eggs, tomato paste, half and half, red pepper flakes, oregano, and parsley. Allow mixture to stand for twenty minutes so that the breadcrumbs soak up the flavor of the other ingredients. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Using a small ice-cream scoop (about one tablespoon), scoop a portion of the mixture onto a parchment-lined, 12 x 17 inch, rimmed baking sheet. (You will want to portion them fairly close together as this makes a whole bunch of little meatballs.) Repeat until all of the mixture has been used. Drizzle the meatballs with olive oil. Place pan in the oven for a total of 20 minutes. After ten minutes, take the tray out and brush the tops of the meatballs with tomato sauce. Return the pan to the oven to finish cooking.

Serve these with your favorite pasta and spaghetti sauce garnished with plenty of parmesan cheese and minced parsley. You could also make these into little sliders on a soft bun with ricotta and tomato.