I eat more pasta during November and December than I do in an entire year. I don’t have anything against pasta. Quite the opposite. But it’s a heavy food. It’s the perfect cozy treat during the colder months – perfect for sharing with family and friends. When the snows start coming and the days are darker and the last place I want to be is the grocery store, my pasta in the pantry is always a comfort.
Since I consume more pasta during the winter than any other time of the year, pasta toppings should be hearty. When I became a vegetarian, I looked for fun ways to recreate classic dishes without unnatural mock meat products. This recipe is an ode to a “meaty” classic with basic pantry staples. Vegetarians, vegans or meat lovers all win with these delicious “meat”balls loaded with the best Italian flavors.
When it comes to meal prep, we all like easy recipes. You can prepare these meatballs by two methods to suite your schedule. These meatballs come together in a pinch but add tons of protein and delicious flavor to your favorite pasta. But don’t stop there! The basil and sun-dried tomatoes in these meatballs are subtle enough so the flavor is fit for a variety of dishes. Add them to sandwiches or crumble them on pizza. They are best served with a tomato sauce or pesto, however they are delicious enough to stand on their own as a quick snack or grab and go lunch. But since it’s getting colder and pasta is on my brain, we’re adding these beauties to a steaming pile of spaghetti and kicking back. Please join me!
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided, plus more for cooking
2 Large Garlic Cloves, minced
1/3 cup chopped Onion
1 cup canned Chickpeas
1 cup cooked Brown Rice
1/2 cup Gluten-Free Bread Crumbs
2 Tablespoons Wheat Flour or Gluten-Free Oat Flour
1 Tablespoon packed, Chopped Fresh Basil
Scant 1/4 cup Whole Sun-Dried Tomatoes (about 3-4)
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
In a sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat and add the garlic and onion. Sauté until soft and potent, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and allow to cool for a few minutes. Set the pan aside, you’ll use it again soon! Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor, including the other 1 tablespoon of oil and mix until it’s a rough crumble. The mixture should be moist and hold a shape when you roll the mixture into balls.
Form about 2 tablespoons of dough for each ball, making 10 meatballs in all. In the sauté pan, add a bit more oil as needed and bring to medium heat. Add the meatballs to the pan, careful not to over crowd. Cook on medium heat about 3-4 minutes on each side, rotating the meatballs as they cook until heated through. The should have a nice crust and be extra fragrant! Enjoy with your favorite sauces, pasta, sandwiches or pizza!
ALTERNATE PREPARATION: Pre-heat oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Move the oven wrack to the second top shelf. Add the onion, garlic and 1 tablespoon oil to the baking sheet. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until potent. Process with the other ingredients in the food processor. Form balls and place back on the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Turn over, drizzle with more oil and bake for another 4-5 minutes, until heated through and the meatballs have a nice golden crust.