But sometimes, nothing quite satisfies like a classic, hearty Italian dish, and this meatball recipe is exactly that (you know, minus the meat, eggs, and cheese).
Having already tried a vegan meatball with tempeh, I wanted to try something a bit more approachable for everyone, so I went with chickpeas. Spoiler alert? I prefer them even more!
And, as always, this recipe is simple, requiring just 10 ingredients, simple methods, and less than 1 hour to prepare.
Once you form the meatballs, it’s just a matter of coating, sautéing and finishing them off in the oven while you prepare any desired sides, such as pasta, red sauce or salad. It’s about as simple as it gets.
The finished result is amazing! These meatballs are:
Tender on the inside
Slightly crisp on the outside
Infused with sun-dried tomato & basil
& Simply delicious
Make these to enjoy as an appetizer with a bit of marinara sauce, or to pair with your favorite pasta. I prefer mine atop spaghetti noodles and a classic red sauce with all of the vegan parmesan cheese.
If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment and rate it, and don’t forget to take a picture and tag it #minimalistbaker on Instagram so we can see! Your photos always make our day. Cheers, friends!
- 1 flax egg (1 Tbsp (7 g) flax seed meal + 2.5 Tbsp ( ml) water)
- 2 Tbsp (15-30 ml) olive oil, divided, plus more for sautéing
- 3 cloves garlic (~9 g), minced
- 1/3 cup (22 g) panko bread crumbs (gluten-free for GF eaters)
- 1/3 cup loosely packed (20 g) fresh basil, chopped
- 1/3 cup loosely packed (36 g) chopped sun-dried tomatoes (dry, not in oil)
- 1/3 cup (26 g) vegan parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
- pinch each sea salt and red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
- optional: 1 Tbsp dried oregano (or 2 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped)
- 1 15-ounce (425 g) chickpeas*, drained, rinsed and dried
- 2 Tbsp (10 g) vegan parmesan cheese
- 3 Tbsp (12 g) panko bread crumbs (gluten-free for GF eaters)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and prepare flax egg in your food processor or high speed blender.
- Heat a large metal or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add 1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil and minced garlic. Sauté until slightly browned, stirring often - about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then add to food processor or blender with flax egg.
- Next add panko bread crumbs, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, vegan parmesan cheese, salt + red pepper flakes, dried oregano, and 1 Tbsp olive oil (15 ml). Pulse/blend until small bits remain, scraping down sides as needed.
- Next add rinsed/dried chickpeas (see notes for tempeh) and blend/pulse until a moldable “dough” is formed, scraping down sides as needed. You don’t want the chickpeas to turn into a paste, but you also don’t want any left whole.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. I added a bit more basil, salt, and panko bread crumbs.
- Scoop out rounded 1 Tbsp amounts of dough (I used this 1.5 Tbsp scoop from Amazon) and gently form/roll into balls - about 15 total. Then roll in additional vegan parmesan cheese-panko bread crumb mixture to coat (see photo).
- Heat the same skillet you used earlier over medium heat. Once hot, add enough olive oil to form a thin layer on the bottom of the skillet (~2 Tbsp | 30 ml), then add meatballs in two batches, as to not crowd the pan. Add more oil as needed.
- Brown for about 5 minutes total, shaking the pan to roll them around to brown all sides. Turn down heat slightly if browning too quickly.
- Add sautéed meatballs to a bare baking sheet and transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.
- At this time, prep any pasta you want to serve with your meatballs, as well as your favorite marinara sauce (I love this sauce, warmed up in a saucepan).
- Once meatballs are golden brown and fairly firm to the touch, remove from oven. Let cool briefly before serving. They will firm up the longer they cool.
- To serve, top cooked pasta with marinara sauce and desired number of meatballs. Top with another sprinkle of vegan parmesan cheese and fresh basil (optional).
- Leftover meatballs will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, though best when fresh. Reheat in a 350 degree F oven until warmed through, or in the microwave.
- To freeze, sauté meatballs as instructed, then transfer to a baking sheet and freeze until completely firm. Then transfer to a freezer safe bag or airtight container and store in the freezer for up to 1 month. Reheat in a 350-degree F (176 C) oven until completely warmed through.
*Instead of using chickpeas, you can substitute tempeh, though it does impart a slightly bitter flavor. To prepare, slice your 8-ounce (227 g) tempeh block into quarter-inch slices and place in a small saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Steam/simmer for 10 minutes, then drain and pat dry. Proceed through recipe as instructed, adding the tempeh where I list adding the chickpeas. (Tempeh method adapted from The Kitchn.)
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate for 1 of 15 meatballs without extra sides or toppings.