Scrumptious Spaghetti ‘Meatballs’ in Rich Tomato Sauce

Most people I know love ‘meatballs’ (we love the veggie equivalent), what fun !  Yummy, scrummy balls of nutritious, delicious ingredients, packed with vitamins and converted into delectable little balls, with a delightful texture and irresistible flavour.  My mother also used to make delicious ones – sadly with meat – but these are the meatless ones, with just as much flavour and just as many thumbs-up points.  I have always found the concept of meatballs in a rich tomato sauce to be a comforting prospect for lifting the spirits, as well as a ‘looking forward to’ label attached to a pleasurable sit-down meal – to share with either friends or family, or both.  I suppose the added bonus of chewing into the tender balls, sucking in the spaghetti, and inevitably splattering the amazing sauce – all add to the pleasure of eating such a meal.  I think it is the textures, tastes, colours and aromas that excite the palette so.  Well, what are we waiting for ???

Serves 4-5 (makes 24 ‘meatballs’)


  • 2 slices of dry wholemeal bread (crusts cut off)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint (or half the amount in dried mint)
  • 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley (use a little stem too)
  • ½ a grated carrot
  • 2 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp wheat-germ
  • 1 tsp vegetable stock granules (use a salted version)
  • 1 tsp curry
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cardamon
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 large mushrooms, roughly chopped (and fried)
  • 1 tsp egg replacer (mixed with 1 tsp water into a paste)
  • 14 pecan halves
  • 3 tbsp whole-meal flour
  • 1 cup of red quinoa, washed and boiled (remove and drain when ready)
  • extra virgin olive oil for frying


Start off by placing the bread, nuts, herbs and spices in a food processor, and process until all are very finely chopped.  Next, throw in the onions, garlic and carrot, and process for a further minute or so.

Add the remaining ingredients, except for the olive oil and quinoa, and process (remove any excess from the sides of the mixer using a spatula).  Now add in the cooked quinoa, cooked mushrooms, and egg replacer mix, and process for a few seconds only, so that you are left with a very thick mixture.  Remove into a large bowl, and place in the refrigerator for half an hour.

Next sprinkle a large plate with flour, then make sure your hands are totally dry and floured.  Begin to take a tablespoon of the meatball mixture at a time, and roll for a few seconds in the palms of your hands, until a ball is formed.  Continue to do this, placing the balls on the floured plate, until you have used all the mixture.  Sprinkle a little more flour on the top of them, and place them in the fridge for a further 40 minutes or longer if preferred, so that they bind well prior to frying.

When they are ready, heat a little olive oil in a large non-stick frying plan, and one by one place the balls in the pan, and allow to fry on a medium to low heat, until they are a nice golden brown all over.  Then transfer them into an ovenproof glass dish, and place in the oven on a low heat.  Now it’s time to make the sauce.


  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped (4 – 5 cloves will do)
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, left whole (to compete with the ‘meatballs’ !)
  • 4 tbsps tomato puree
  • 2 tins (800g) of chopped tomatoes
  • a handful of fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsps HP sauce (brown sauce)
  • ½ glass of red wine
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp muscovado sugar


Heat the olive oil in a non-stick saucepan on a medium to low heat, and add the garlic, mixing all the time so that it does not burn – half a minute is ample.  Now add the cherry tomatoes, then the tomato puree, and a little more oil.  Mix, and allow to cook until the oil turns orange.

Add in the rest of the ingredients, except for the wine.  Allow to simmer covered, until the sauce thickens nicely – around 20-30 minutes should do it.  Next, add the wine a little at a time whilst the sauce is still simmering.  Finally add the HP brown sauce.  Continue mixing for a further five minutes.

When you are left with a thick rich sauce, carefully remove the meatballs from the oven, and place them into the sauce.  Serve immediately onto spaghetti.  Use vegan cheese as a topping if you wish, drizzle some olive oil, and garnish with parsley.  You can sprinkle on some faux parmesan (I use the vegan version called dairy free Parmazano by MH Foods).     Bon, Bon Appètit !

(Photographed piping hot – the smell is just so appetizing !)

All recipes, content & design © Miriam Sorrell 2010

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  1. Now i know what i will be making for Sunday lunch for me and mu family to indulge in, yummmm they look simply delicious!

  2. This dish goes very well with a chilled, dry white wine – indulge, eat your heart out, and put your feet up with your glass. Cheers !

  3. Do you have a “light” quickie version too?

  4. No short cuts I’m afraid, but all my friends said it’s worth the little effort for the rewarding return. I make these every month or two – usually I make enough for a couple of days, so it makes the whole thing worth it ! It’s also a great one if you are entertaining – vegans and meat eaters alike love them !

  5. I have always loved meatballs, but i’ve tried this veggie version , and i am now in love with them. The mix of the nuts together with all the spices and other ingredients made it a great plate, and I even made some bigger ones, and served it in a bun to my kid … then after she asked for a second, i told her..that was all vegan!! yummy and so healthy too…

  6. Wow, great to hear that you made them into a burger – what a good idea, especially for getting kids to eat them – they very much judge a book by it’s cover, so that was a smart thought. Glad you loved them and that your daughter enjoyed the taste too. Works well doesn’t it, and as you said “it’s vegan, yummy and health too.” Thanks.

  7. Flavia Hi, I never actually thought of making it into a shepherds pie – I do however think that the softnesss of the meatballs, as most veggie meatballs tend to err towards the soft side, that adding mashed potatoes as a topping may just be a iittle too soft to the palette – there won’t be much to chew on, that’s my concern here. However, you can always roast some crunched up potatoes and have them with the meatballs instead of pasta at some point – I always tend to think about textures as much as I do taste ! Let me know how it goes anyway.

  8. Flavia Hi and am delighted that you tried them – yes, the refrigerator is actually a better friend of ours now than ever, as it assists in the binding process – I may try and add a teaspoon of egg replacer next time I make them, as although we were satisfied with the flavour and texture, we all know that meat is coarser, so the egg replacer (only 1 teaspoon) may bind them further, or at least it should do.

    Also as an appetizer they would be perfect, served cold on a salad in summer would also work, and let’s not forget that squeeze of lemon to just give it that tingle of the tongue !

  9. jacqueline taylor

    i just would like to say..luv ur recepies., and i am a italian cook so if i can give u all some grandma…recepies let me know…mind u..altered to our Vegen life style

  10. Thanks for that Jacqueline – I cook a lot of Italian food ! Presently I have no allowances for other recipes (space time etc), other than comments on existing ones – so feel free to add any constructive comments ! Cheers !

  11. Ok now this recipe is sensational and soooo easy to prepare, it’s just wonderful.

  12. Steph thanks so very much for your comment and so happy that you prepared these with success and found them to your delight. Keep well always and thanks also for the post you put in for my pizza in (Malta Inside Out). Cheers !

  13. Made this today. We blended the mixture too much and everything was a bit fine. Then when cooking the balls, they browned on the outside but on the inside they were still “mushy”. I think we made the ‘meatballs’ too big too.
    It was tasty however, just the texture wasn’t great as we processed too much. Also we only have Cardamom seeds, not the ground cardamom. I think it was a bit overpowering in the meatballs. Maybe the ground stuff isn’t as strong as the seeds themselves.

    Next time I make this, Ill make loads of balls and freeze then for future use.
    Thanks again 🙂

  14. Miriam, what is brown sauce? would love to make this reciepe. Glad I found you on FB thanks to Little House of Veggies.

  15. HP sauce is a brown English sauce that is used like ketchup – often brown sauces are used for steak, many of them are vegetarian – the HP brand is fine. I have heard of another sauce A1 I think it may be sold in the States, am not sure – but HP I am told is vegan and the ingredients look so too. If you cannot find a brown sauce, worry not, just make them without it – hope this helps. Best to you.

  16. I love you mate, just sayin 🙂

  17. Hi Tatianna, thanks for that, I do hope you love this recipe too !!! Cheers to you !

  18. Just made my annual batch of tomato sauce-I usually make meatballs but I’m working on “plant strong” this year, so now I have what looks like a delicious alternative!! Thank you so much!!

  19. Sue Hi there – thanks for your comment – sounds like a great idea – hope you enjoy these. Make sure they are firm enough before frying – if you need a little more breadcrumbs or flour use them so that your veg balls have a good consistency to them. Enjoy & Cheers to you !

  20. Hi Miriam. Do you mean 1 cup or red quinoa after it has boiled or 1 cup before boiling? I have finally got all the ingredients and about to “create”. Thanks

  21. 1 cup before boilng Maraika is what I meant. Cheers !.

  22. “Veatballs” easy to make once you have all ingredients. Not successful in food processor but then finished them off with wooden spoon. Didn’t like the pecans in them so will try Walnuts?? next time. They stayed together and browned nicely but were too soft/mushy inside for husbands taste. Although I made them small enough. Will give then another try now that I purchased the ingredients so not to waste.

  23. Hi Maraika, thanks for your comment. These Meat(free)balls are not to be over processed, everybody’s food processor differs, and with some being more powerful than others, they create a softer mush than some – in this instance it’s not what you want. If you don’t like pecan nuts, then use walnuts or another nut that you know in advance that you like. It should be easy next time with the texture – process for less time next time so that there is more form to them, and finish by hand. Tip: You may find that coarser wholemeal bread will also help – hope this info is of some help. Good luck for next time.

  24. I made these today, and they turned out great. For the sauce I added some onions, mushrooms and green peppers, and omitted the wine. I was really surprised how much of a difference the HP sauce made to the overall taste. The “meatballs” are also good dipped in plum sauce for snacking. Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  25. Hi there Colleen and welcome here. Thanks for dropping by with your comment. Sounds great the combination of veggies you used. Yes, the HP does rather carry that magic with it. My mother used to use it in many of her sauces, and the craving for it in certain dishes certainly works, and with the ‘meatballs’ it gives them the ‘kick’ they need without the pain (chilli heat). Glad you enjoyed them with the plum sauce you mentioned – what a great idea ! Best to you, and drop by again soon !

  26. Is there a substitute for nuts? I have children with peanut allergies

  27. Ummi Hi there, welcome to my site – thanks for dropping by. If you have kids with peanut allergies, may be a little more breadcrumbs and a cup of cooked short grain rice added to the mixture will do the trick. Let me know how it goes. Best to you.

  28. Hi Miriam

    Would it be ok to make this without the yeast?

    Kind regards


  29. Heidi Hi there, I do not use conventional bread yeast for this recipe – nutritional yeast is different to conventional yeast that is used for baking bread, pizza etc – it’s different as it is not an active yeast, it’s actually deactivated – here is some more info for you :- nutritional yeast Equivalents: 1 tablespoon powdered = 2 tablespoons flakes Notes: This nutritional supplement has a pleasant nutty-cheesy flavor and is packed with protein and B vitamins. It comes in flakes or powder and is popular with vegans and health buffs who use it to make cheese substitutes, gravies, and many other dishes. It’s also a great topping for popcorn. Nutritional yeast is very similar to brewer’s yeast, which is also used as a nutritional supplement and is made from the same strain of yeast. The difference is that brewer’s yeast is a by-product of beer production and retains some of the bitter flavor of hops. Don’t confuse nutritional yeast, which is deactivated, with active forms of yeast, like the kinds bakers, brewers, and winemakers use. If you eat them, active yeasts will continue to grow in your intestine, robbing your body of valuable nutrients. Look for nutritional yeast at health food stores. Get fortified nutritional yeast if you’re taking it as a source of vitamin B12. Substitutes: brewer’s yeast (inferior flavor, darker color) OR Parmesan cheese (as a condiment; higher in fat, less nutritious) OR wheat germ (works well in baked goods or sprinkled on cereals) OR yeast extract.

    If you don’t wish to use it that’s fine, you may use some vegetable extract instead, either flakes or powder, as you will need something a little concentrate to intensify the flavour of the ‘balls’.

    Good luck and enjoy !

  30. This looks amazing. Will try it this weekend!! Keep sharing. Much appreciated!

  31. Hi there Lisa and welcome here. I hope you enjoy this recipe. Best to you !

  32. Hello…Now you had me well and truly hooked with pasta. I love all sort but can’t make up my mind which is to be the first. Any suggestion?
    Re the pea pastizzi have I missed the rec? Cannot locate it. I love pastizzi as well. I used to make them by the dozen….

  33. Hi Joe and thanks for your comment. I don’t know what your culinary preferences are I’m afraid. I personally love the pesto – but it’s up to you. Take your pic. Thanks & Best.

  34. Joe Hi – just wanted to add that the pastizzi recipe will be published in my upcoming book next year. I posted the picture to introduce it, something many food bloggers do.

  35. Hi Miriam, wonderful recipes!! not only healthy, male-friendly, yet so beautifully exposed. I would have a question if there is a printer friendly option. It would be very useful to speed up the printing when you wanna take the list of ingredients to the store. Thanks!

  36. Enjoy learning about new ways to make “meat” balls. thank you

  37. Hi there Laurie and welcome here – it is very interesting indeed the many ways that ‘meat’ balls can be made. I have several recipes that I have created all with different textures. This one has a soft texture. Hope you enjoy them if you are making them. Best wishes your way in the meantime & I look forward to your future comments on my blog !

  38. Sylwia Hi there and welcome here. Thanks for your kind words, I appreciate them. I apologize but do not have a print friendly option, it’s how I am set up. You can still copy a recipe and print it though. Hope you enjoy my recipes and very much look forward to your feedback and comments here on my blog in the meantime. Kindest wishes your way !

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  40. Thanks for the link.

  41. Chrissy from Canada

    Wow!!! I just made this tonight and it was dee-licious! Thank you for your creativity, I love to cook and was starting to get bored. You have sparked my creativity again and your recipes look incredible. I can’t wait for your book to come out!!

  42. Chrissy Hi there. So glad you made my ‘meatballs’ and enjoyed them, also delighted that you are inspired, that’s awesome news and I look forward to your future comments and feedback on my blog ! Enjoy & thanks for your interest in my book ! 🙂

  43. Hi, Mariam. Just learned of Gary Yourofsky about a couple months ago, and thus found your vegan recipes. Found this recipe last night, and when my wife and I go shopping this week, will be sure I have all ingredients. I cannot wait to try this. Strongly craving it right now! 🙂 I’ll let you know how it goes.

  44. Miriam, better yet, just purchased your cookbook! Very excited! Thank you. My wife and I, vegan 2.5 years – for life!

  45. Hi there Ron and welcome to my blog. Huge congrats to both yourself and your wife for going vegan. Do let me know how these go and hope you enjoy them. Are you from the UK or USA ?

  46. Thanks for purchasing my book dear Ron and hope you enjoy it – that being the case I would love a brief amazon customer review from you if you can spare a minute or two for me. Kindest and cheers once again. 🙂


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