You guys. I am SO excited today. Not only am I sharing these mushroom & white bean balls that are to.die.for, but yesterday my niece was born! Her name is Abigail and she is the squishiest little ball of love. I haven’t met her yet since I’ve had a cold all week and wanted an extra day to make sure I’m 100% healthy before meeting her. So far I’ve only seen pictures and she is absolutely perfect- chubby cheeks, cutest little nose… I can barely contain my excitement!! But TODAY, probably while you’re reading this, I am driving to Boston to meet her chubby little 2-day-old self. Update: I’ve met her. If you want to see pictures, go check out my stories on Instagram. She has a full head of brown hair and is the most precious little burrito of a baby.
I can’t wait to touch her tiny little toes, sniff her baby head and give her all the cuddles. I also really can’t wait for her to be old enough to bake with me. That’ll be in like 3 weeks, right? You gotta start ’em early.
Abigail’s older sister -my 2-year old niece Mary- is practically a fully fledged adult by now. I’m spending the weekend with her while my sister and brother-in-law are in the hospital with the new baby. We’re gonna stock up the house with homemade goodies to make life a little easier on Sarah when she gets home from the hospital and suddenly finds herself in uncharted territory: with a toddler and an infant. Sarah has already requested a batch of Whole Wheat Fig Bars, lots of homemade hummus, and anything with almonds. I’m thinking we will also make some blueberry almond butter energy balls, a batch of granola, and a few easy-to-eat dinners like calzones. Be sure to keep an eye out for my Instastories this weekend, since I’ll likely be sharing what we make there!
Okay, let’s talk about these meatballs.
A few weeks ago we celebrated my grandpa’s 93rd birthday, and he requested spaghetti and meatballs for dinner (well, for supper, actually. Gramps is the only person I know who refers to dinner as ‘supper’). My aunts were in charge of dinner, and wanted to know if there was something else they could make for me, since I prefer not to eat meat. I didn’t need anything extra since spaghetti, stuffed shells, salad, bread sticks, and cake sounded plenty filling to me. It did, however, get me thinking about spaghetti and meatballs.
More specifically, I started to imagine what I would want a meatless meatball to taste like, were I to make them. Then, as tends to happen in my brain, I couldn’t stop thinking about spaghetti and meatballs. I needed to make them for dinner, ASAP.
Luckily the universe was listening to my request, and dumped two snowstorms on us right in a row, leaving me with ample days off from work to lounge around the house testing recipes. After I perfected my cashew butter breakfast cookies, I moved straight to meatball land.
I knew I wanted the meatballs to be cheesy and full of herbs, so I used two types of cheese: pecorino romano and ricotta. For the herbs, I used dried oregano plus fresh rosemary and parsley. The combination of herbs added an extra earthy, woodsy, herbal flavor that was the perfect compliment to the base of these meatballs: sauteed onions, mushrooms, and white beans. Despite being meat-free, these veggieballs are so hearty, flavorful, and -dare I say- meaty. Not meaty in the sense that you’re fooled into thinking these have beef in them, just in the savory, umami flavors that tend to make anything taste extra filling and satisfying.
I considered tucking these meatballs into a sub roll, or dunking them in marinara sauce for a lazy dinner, but there’s just something about spaghetti and meatballs. Maybe its the fact that you can twirl up the spaghetti with a fork and get a giant nest of pasta in each bite, or maybe it’s the daydreams of slurping spaghetti with a stranger and accidentally kissing, but I just love spaghetti. Yet, I don’t actually eat it that often. Sure, I eat plenty of other pasta- penne, fusilli, linguine, lasagna, conchigli- you name it, I’m eating it. But spaghetti? I always forget about the slurpy, twirly perfection of that long squiggly pasta. I had to specifically write ‘spaghetti’ into my grocery list to remember to pick up a package. (P.S. I love Trader Joe’s line of gluten-free Quinoa & Brown Rice pastas- I have no problem with eating gluten- these are just a whole grain, protein-packed, tasty pasta. If you aren’t tried them out, you really should. I always have a few bags of the fusilli in my pantry, and the pasta in these pictures is the TJs Quinoa & Brown Rice spaghetti!).
If you’re like me and you can’t remember the last time you actually ate spaghetti, you need to stop what you’re doing and make a pot of spaghetti and meat(less)balls ASAP. These meatballs (vegballs?) take a little extra time to make, but are so worth the effort. After the mushrooms and onions are cooked and mixed with all the ingredients, you just roll the mixture into balls and bake them for 30 minutes. I’d guess that even the slowest cook could have these balls on the table in under an hour, which isn’t terrible for a weeknight, considering 30 minutes of that time is completely hands-off (unless you’re my husband, who redefines slow cooking- Kevin, these will take you 2 days to make. Start now).
- 8oz cremini mushrooms (also sold as 'baby bella' mushrooms)
- 1/2 a large red onion
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely diced
- 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
- 1-15oz can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed*
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan, romano, or asiago cheese (or a blend of any/all of them)
- 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
- 3/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
- a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- marinara sauce and spaghetti, to serve
- 1. Put a skillet on the stove over medium heat. White the pan heats, finely dice the mushrooms and onion. Add them to the pan with the olive oil, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add garlic powder, oregano, rosemary, salt, and pepper, and turn off the heat.
- 2. While the mushroom mixture cools, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray, or drizzle lightly with olive oil.
- 3. Put all remaining ingredients into a mixing bowl, and mash together with a potato masher or fork. You want the beans to be mostly mashed, with some small chunks remaining. When mushrooms have cooled slightly, add them to the bean mixture, and stir well to combine.
- 4. Use a small ice cream scoop or a spoon to portion out 2 Tablespoon-sized balls. Roll between your fingers to get a more circular shape. Spread out the balls on the pan like cookies, and either spray them with more cooking spray, or drizzle them lightly with oil. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip and bake 10 more minutes. Serve warm with marinara sauce to dip, or put them on top of your favorite spaghetti. Leftovers keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days, though are best reheated in the oven as they start to fall apart slightly if reheated in sauce or in the microwave.
- *Cannelini, white kidney, or great northern beans all work interchangeably in this recipe