Veggie Italian Meatballs (GF)


As I mentioned in previous posts, a tradition was recently started in my household. Monday is homemade pizza night. And so it has been for the past ten Mondays or so. Yesterday the chain was broken however, as the suggestion of good old-fashioned spaghetti and meatballs caused great enthusiasm. I blame the Sopranos. 

About 5 years ago, when I lived by the beach, me and my boyfriend at the time decided to watch the entire Sopranos series from the beginning. I had never seen it and he had watched it back when it originally aired. From the very first episode we were mesmerized. It took over our lives, we couldn’t stop. The only other time I recall a TV show abducting my life in such a way, it was Battlestar Galactica. The kind of show where you stay in your pajamas for days, order in, turn to your partner and say “just ONE more?”…and of course it’s never just one more. That’s what happened with The Sopranos. And if you have watched the show you know they are ALWAYS eating. Always. Especially Tony. Pasta, bread, ziti. And watching that made us crave that red smothered, cheese covered American-Italian style grub so freaking bad. Almost every night we ordered in pasta. In was a high-carb time. But I survived.

Back to the present, there has been some discussion recently in my current home about re-watching The Sopranos. But there are concerns. Will it derail my life? Will I want pasta 24/7? Can my body afford such cravings? Will watching the show again destroy all my new healthy practices? I don’t know man. I don’t know. I just know that even the mere suggestion was so powerful, I started to crave that simple, childhood triggering, red sauce smothered, all-American spaghetti and meatballs.

The seed was planted. There was no stopping it.

But of course, being me, I had do something a little different and experimental so I would have something to post about. There are a billion recipes on the net for traditional spaghetti and meatballs, the world doesn’t need another. So I decided to attempt a veggie based “meat” ball. It was important to me that the texture be as close to a traditional meatball as possible, and that it look like one too, without using “fake meat” products. Because honestly I think fake processed meat taste kinda gross. 

I saw a lot of recipes for veggie versions online made with everything from tofu to beans to quinoa to zucchini. I struggled a little deciding what ingredients to use for the “base” and because I couldn’t decide I ended up using zucchini AND garbanzo beans. I was worried it might end up tasting more like falafel balls than meat balls but surprisingly, and probably because of the spices used, it didn’t. It turned out…pretty awesome. I am proud of this recipe. Really proud. When your carnivore partner can’t believe there isn’t meat in it, you know you did good. *pats self on head*

I used gluten-free Panko and pasta, hence the GF tag but of course these are optional, any type of Panko crumbs will work and of course any kind of spaghetti. This recipe uses an egg but can be easily veganized with flax egg or your favorite vegan egg substitute. It’s really just used as a binder for the balls.

I used my trusty Vitamix to make the garbanzo/zucchini “dough”, but a food processor will also work. I also freezed half of the mixture for an easy future dinner, because I will definitely be craving this again!

Tony Soprano might have me taken out for this, but I’d like to think he would happily gobble it up and tell me it was pretty fuckin’ good for a “Madigan”. 🙂





2 large zucchinis, cubed

1 can Garbanzo beans, rinsed

1 medium white onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 egg

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

2 cups Panko bread crumbs

Olive oil for skillet

Spices I used: oregano, thyme, paprika, Himalayan salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, Flavor God lemon garlic powder.

Jar of favorite marinara sauce



Place rinsed garbanzo beans, parsley and chopped zucchini in a bowl. Toss together. Process together in a Vitamix or food processor until ground well and but not too smooth or pureed, you will want some small chunks for texture. I pulsed on low until I got the texture I wanted. You should be able to still see pieces of zucchini. I actually blended in two separate batches. Set aside.


In a skillet sauté the onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl pour in the zucchini/garbanzo mixture. Add the cooked onions and garlic, nutritional yeast, egg and desired spices. Mix with a flat spatula while adding the Panko 1/2 cup at a time until the batter is not too wet and forms a nice firm dough that can easily be formed into balls that stay together. For me that was about 2 cups.


With clean hands form the dough into ping-pong sized balls and place in olive oil heated skillet on a medium heat. Should make approx 20 balls.

Cook the balls, turning over, until golden brown on all sides and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Wipe the excess oil from the skillet and pour in the marinara sauce. Place on a low simmer heat and when lightly bubbling, add the balls back in. Simmer covered for about 10 minutes then flip them over and simmer for another 10 minutes so the steam and sauce can cook through the middle of the ball. This also helps with the texture.

Serve on top of your favorite pasta! Crave it hardcore for the next few days!

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