Vegetarian Mushroom Meatballs (With Vegan Option)

Vegetarian mushroom meatballs – these moist, herby, delicious meatless ‘meatballs’ taste amazing with tomato sauce and pasta and are the perfect healthy comfort food.

Vegetarian mushroom meatballs - these moist, herby, delicious meatless 'meatballs' taste amazing with tomato sauce and pasta and are the perfect healthy comfort food.

Vegetarian mushroom meatballs - these moist, herby, delicious meatless 'meatballs' taste amazing with tomato sauce and pasta - perfect healthy comfort food!

The weather the last couple of days has been utterly foul. Non-stop rain all day and the darkest, gloomiest skies. Comfort food is definitely in order and these vegetarian mushroom meatballs are just the thing. Spaghetti with tomato sauce, meatballs and plenty of cheese has to be one of the ultimate comfort foods and it is really easy to make an amazing tasting vegetarian (or even vegan) version of the classic.

Vegetarian mushroom meatballs - these moist, herby, delicious meatless 'meatballs' taste amazing with tomato sauce and pasta and are the perfect healthy comfort food.

These vegetarian meatballs are mushroom based, but they don’t taste particularly mushroomy, more just savoury and herby and are close enough to the original that even carnivores will love them. They are very easy to make too, though they do take a bit of prep and it is best to let the mixture sit in the fridge for a couple of hours, or even overnight, before shaping them so that it holds together better. They do hold their shape well when you cook them, but they are a little more delicate than regular meatballs so be gentle when you turn them.

Vegetarian mushroom meatballs, tomato ragu sauce and spaghetti in a black bowl with basil leaves

I generally use eggs to help bind them together and parmesan for flavour, meaning that they aren’t vegan; but I have also made them using vegan substitutions and they work perfectly. You just swap the butter for vegan spread or more olive oil, the eggs for a couple of flax eggs and the parmesan for either a vegan version or nutritional yeast flakes. I’ve given instructions for both versions below.

Now before I get loads of comments saying that parmesan isn’t vegetarian so I shouldn’t be calling these vegetarian meatballs; A: I know. B: It’s optional. C: Vegetarian/vegan versions are pretty easy to find, I use Sainsbury’s own brand ‘Italian hard cheese’ and Violife make a vegan version. I simply call it parmesan because ‘vegetarian Italian hard cheese’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Vegetarian mushroom meatballs with tomato ragu sauce in a black skillet

Vegetarian mushroom meatballs - these moist, herby, delicious meatless 'meatballs' taste amazing with tomato sauce and pasta - perfect healthy comfort food!
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Vegetarian Mushroom Meatballs

Ingredients

Vegetarian Mushroom Meatballs:

  • 650 g (23oz) mushrooms finely chopped
  • 1 large onion peeled and finely diced
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter (or vegan spread or more olive oil)
  • 4 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary (leaves only)
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme (leaves only)
  • 100 g (1 cup) fine/quick cook porridge oats
  • 100 g (scant 1 cup) breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 30 g (1oz) grated parmesan (make sure you use a vegetarian version) (or 4 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes for vegan option) (optional)
  • 2 large eggs (or 2 flax eggs - 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 6 Tbsp water and left for 10 minutes to gel)
  • freshly ground black pepper

Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions peeled and finely diced
  • 2 carrots peeled and finely diced
  • 2 celery sticks finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
  • small bunch fresh basil
  • 2 Tbsp tomato puree
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) red wine
  • 2 x 400 g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 250 ml (1 cup) water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • cooked spaghetti to serve

Instructions

  1. Fry the onion in the olive oil and butter in a large pan over a low heat until softened. Add the mushrooms, turn up the heat to medium and cook, stirring regularly, until all of the excess moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms have browned a little.

  2. Add the garlic, rosemary and thyme and cook for another minute then transfer the mixture to a food processor. Blend until it is very finely chopped then add the oats and blend again.

  3. Stir in the breadcrumbs, oregano, salt, parmesan, eggs, and plenty of black pepper. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, ideally overnight.

  4. While the mushroom mixture is chilling make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a low heat and fry the onion, carrot and celery for about 10 minutes until very soft. Finely chop the basil stalks, setting the leaves aside, and add them to the pan. Add the garlic and tomato puree and cook for another minute.

  5. Add the red wine and allow it to bubble away until it has almost all evaporated then add the chopped tomatoes, water, bay leaves, sugar and some salt and pepper.

  6. Bring up to a gentle simmer and allow to cook, stirring every now and again, for about 30 minutes. Add a splash of water if it gets too thick. Remove the bay leaves then either use a stick blender to blend the sauce until it is smooth as I did, or leave it chunky.

  7. Form the mushroom mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball. Fry them gently in a little olive oil, turning them regularly, until they are browned. Alternatively you can bake them in the oven on a baking parchment lined baking sheet at 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for about 20 minutes, turning them halfway through.

  8. Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes then serve with pasta and grated cheese.

Recipe Notes

Ideally you need to start this they day before you want to serve it to give the mushroom mixture time to bind together and for the flavours to develop. If not the day beforehand then the mixture will need at least a couple of hours in the fridge so make sure you give yourself plenty of time.

Recipe adapted from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/232908/chef-johns-meatless-meatballs/

Vegetarian mushroom meatballs with tomato sauce, spaghetti, basil and cheese in a black bowl next to a skillet

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