Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Vegan MoFo: Spaghetti and Italian Wheatballs with Daiya

I'm a busy mom. I have seven kids, and dinner is often a rushed affair, to say the least. Between sporting events, homework, and tantrums, it's sometimes a wonder I get my family fed at all.

For a quick meal, it's hard to beat pasta with sauce. Boil the noodles, heat the sauce, and POOF... dinner! I'm always trying to sneak protein, vitamins and other nutrients in, so I opt for whole grain pastas, and add lots of chunky vegetables and beans to my sauces. I've even trained the older kids to dump a can of whole kernel corn and a can of kidney beans to prepared red sauce when they're helping with dinner.

Lately, I've heard grumbling. It's hard to imagine, I know, but it seems the kids and husband tire of the same-old, same-old. Okay... me, too. One brave child even vocalized a desire for *GASP* meatballs to accompany her spaghetti.

"MEATBALLS?" I asked, trying hard not to be offended, and refusing to allow the dream of little fried beef or pork spheres to lure my children away from my vegan dinner table. Oh, no... I wasn't about to throw in the meatball towel without a fight.

"I'll make you something BETTER than meatballs!" I declared, giving a whooping war cry to the sound of deafening applause.

Well, okay - maybe it wasn't exactly all that, but there was a turning point, and I did need a viable meatball substitute to tame the masses. So, I threw together this recipe, which immediately silenced further meatball requests and has become a new family favorite. The best part is the recipe can be made ahead of time, formed into balls, and tightly covered in the refrigerator, then quickly fried while the noodles boil. Check it out:

Italian Wheatballs


3 slices vegan whole wheat bread, toasted
1 c. shelled pecans
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. crushed oregano
1 t. dried sweet basil
1/2 t. black pepper
1 c. kidney beans
1/4 c. water
1 - 8oz. package Daiya or other vegan cheese shreds (your choice of yellow or white)

You will also need:

Several cups canola oil for frying
Candy thermometer to check oil temperature
Blender or food processor
Fryer or deep wok for frying


Break toast into pieces and pulse in blender or food processor to create fine bread crumbs.

Chop pecans using a nut grinder or by pulsing in blender or food processor.

In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, chopped pecans, garlic, oregano, basil and pepper. Mix well.

In blender or food processor, blend kidney beans with water to create a thick puree. Add puree to nut mixture and stir well.

Add Daiya shreds and mix well, using a pastry blender or back of fork to chop shreds into small crumbles.

Form into balls, using about one tablespoon of mix per ball.

Note: You may need a little more water to make the mixture sticky enough to roll into balls. Just add a tablespoon at a time, if needed.

Fry for two to three minutes at 375 degrees and drain on paper towels. Outsides of balls should be crispy, and inside should be cooked through, with bits of melted cheese.

Serve over pasta and sauce, or make a "wheatball" sandwich on a hoagie with vegan marinara. Enjoy!

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  1. Oooh, looks really tasty. And easy too!

    Did you kids like it? :)

  2. The kids LOVE it! They're requesting this recipe all the time, now, but I only make it once every couple of weeks or so, because I try to keep the fried foods to a minimum. ;)

  3. *drool* Thank you so much for sharing this! I was expecting a recipe that called for fancy ingredients that I would have to go to the specialty grocery for. Very happily surprised!

  4. @Mary - I have seven kids, and that means I don't have time to run to a specialty store every time I whip something up. :) I think you'll find most of my recipes have "normal" ingredients, and are easy to prepare! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. This looks AMAZING! Must make some soon now that the weather has turned cooler.

  6. Hi Christina, first time here and lovin' it! :) Hmmmm and yummmmm, but I gotta question...can the wheatballs be baked, maybe?

  7. Hi, Karen. Thanks for stopping by!

    I am almost positive the wheatballs can be baked. I haven't tried it with THIS recipe, but I've concocted similar recipes in the past, and baked them on an oiled cookie sheet. They just tend to be a tiny bit drier... No biggie, if you're going to smother them with sauce! Also, if you flatten the balls a bit, they'll bake more evenly (think medallions). I'd try baking them at 350 degrees... no idea how long. Just watch 'em, and pull 'em out when they begin to brown.

    And then, of course, report back and tell me how they turn out, and how long you baked them for!

    Welcome, and thanks again! xoxo

  8. You are such a dear, thanks a million! You got it, girl - shall try is asap and let you know - but I warn ya, I tend to futz around and make recipes my own - I'll absolutely let you know if I make any well as the oven timing and all that - LOL! :) Again thanks - and hey, maybe see you on FB, I just "liked" you page, hee xoxo

  9. The world will be awaiting your results, Karen! :)

    Oh, and thank you for being a "liker!" <3