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Vegetarian Spaghetti and Meatballs

In this vegetarian take on the Italian-American classic, beef and pork meatballs are swapped for aubergine balls, which are baked before being tossed in a delicious homemade tomato and basil sauce. Though they’re 100% meat-free, they’re full of flavour thanks to a combination of umami forward ingredients, including sundried tomato, olive paste and parmigiano reggiano.

Note: these meat(less)balls are on the soft, dare I say, mushy side, which isn’t for everyone. But they hold up well in the sauce and are delicious!

  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: 5 1x
  • Category: Meat, Pasta, Vegetarian

Ingredients

Scale

For the roasted aubergine mix:

  • 2 small aubergines (approx. 250g each)
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 2 tsps dried Italian herbs
  • ¾ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly-ground black pepper
  • extra-virgin olive oil

For the meatless balls:

  • 70 g sundried tomato paste
  • 50 g black olive tapenade
  • 50 g cooked Puy lentils
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 50 g parmigiano reggiano, grated
  • 100 g panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • extra-virgin olive oil

To serve:

  • 400 g dried pasta of choice
  • grated parmigiano reggiano

Instructions

  1. Heat your oven to 220℃. Cut the aubergines into 2cm chunks (approx.) and transfer to a large roasting tin. Add the onion, garlic, Italian herbs, salt and freshly-ground black pepper. It might look like too much salt, but we won’t be adding any more throughout the recipe.
  2. Drizzle generously with extra-virgin olive oil and toss to combine. Roast for 30 to 35 mins, or until nicely browned. While the aubergine is roasting, prepare the Simple Tomato and Basil Sauce.
  3. Let the aubergine mix cool for 10 to 15 mins. Transfer it to a food processor and add the sundried tomato paste, black olive tapenade, Puy lentils and basil. Blitz until well-combined. You want it to have some texture; it shouldn’t be complete mush.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add the parmigiano reggiano, breadcrumbs and egg and mix well to combine.
  5. Heat your oven to 220℃. Roll the mixture into 1 heaped tablespoon-sized balls. It helps to lightly oil or dampen your hands when doing this.
  6. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer on the tray and brush lightly with olive oil. Bake for 15 to 20 mins, or until browned and firm on the outside.
  7. To serve, cook your pasta of choice in generously salted water until just short of al dente (1 to 2 minutes less than instructed on the package). Drain, reserving some of the pasta cooking water. Add ¾ of the tomato and basil sauce to the pasta, along with a ladleful or two of the pasta cooking water, and toss over medium-high heat until the pasta is cooked through and the sauce nicely coats it.
  8. Divide the pasta between bowls and top with the meatless balls. Top with the remaining sauce and a sprinkle of grated parmigiano reggiano and serve – enjoy!

Notes

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