Vegetarian Spaghetti and “Meatballs”

Easy homemade meatball recipeI bet you didn’t know that us (mostly) vegetarians dream of meatballs too. At least this gal does (points thumb at chest). 

OK, we’ve got to discuss this real quick. Who decided that these should be called “meatballs?” I mean, is it just me, or is that not the laziest name ever? Also, it’s not the most appetizing description ever. Meatballs. Balls of meat. 

And if your inner-middle schooler is giggling right now, it’s OK. Me too. Or, conversely, if you are a middle schooler, and you’re way too mature to be giggling at this…well, you win. 

My favorite vegetarian meatball recipeFocus now. We’ve got some meatless meatballs to make. These may not have meat, but they are still full of protein.

Still giggling? Get it together, you guys. We’ve got dinner to make. 

Best vegetarian meatball recipe Vegetarian Spaghetti and Meatballs, serves 2-3 (makes 14-15 balls)
Adapted from The Kitchn’s guide, 

8 oz. tempeh
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup bread crumbs (I used panko)
1 egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons parsley
2 tablespoons chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 large jar of your favorite tomato sauce (or make your own)
salt + pepper
16 oz. uncooked spaghetti noodles

In a bowl, stir together the milk and bread crumbs. This is sort of a breakfast cereal moment. 

Use a grater to shred the tempeh so it resembles the texture of ground meat. To the bread crumb bowl, add the tempeh, egg, grated Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, chopped onion and the minced garlic. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Best vegetarian meatball recipe Use your clean hands to roll the batter into small balls. (Insert more giggles.) If you aren’t using them all at once, you can place them in a zip lock bag and freeze them.

Best vegetarian meatball recipeGet your pasta cooking in some boiling, salted water. While that cooks, cook the meatballs in the tomato sauce for 10-12 minutes until everything is hot. They don’t need to cook for very long. You’re mostly just making sure the raw egg in the batter cooks and the cheese begins to melt.

Vegetarian meatballs (click through for recipe)Once the pasta is ready, drain, and serve the meatballs and sauce on top. Garnish with a little more chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese. Devour. 

Yes, you must devour. That’s just part of the recipe. Enjoy! xo. Didier

Credits // Author and Photography: Didier Li. Photos edited with Stella of the . 

Vegetarian Spaghetti and Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. tempeh
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs I used panko
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large jar of your favorite tomato sauce or make your own
  • salt + pepper
  • 16 oz. uncooked spaghetti noodles

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, stir together the milk and bread crumbs. This is sort of a breakfast cereal moment.
  2. Use a grater to shred the tempeh so it resembles the texture of ground meat. To the bread crumb bowl, add the tempeh, egg, grated Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, chopped onion and the minced garlic. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  3. Use your clean hands to roll the batter into small balls. (Insert more giggles.) If you aren't using them all at once, you can place them in a zip lock bag and freeze them.
  4. Get your pasta cooking in some boiling, salted water. While that cooks, cook the meatballs in the tomato sauce for 10-12 minutes until everything is hot. They don't need to cook for very long. You're mostly just making sure the raw egg in the batter cooks and the cheese begins to melt.
  5. Once the pasta is ready, drain, and serve the meatballs and sauce on top. Garnish with a little more chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese.
  • This recipe looks so tasty! I’ve been a vegetarian for 6 years but I’m still always looking for yummy new recipes to try. Will definitely have to give this one a go!

  • Anybody else love “Rent”? Meatless meatballs…”Eew…It tastes the same…if you close your eyes…” La vie boheme. Anyway, when I make a batch of baked falafel, my favorite way to use up the leftovers is as “meatballs” in spaghetti. It’s completely awesome.

  • I’ve been a vegetarian my entire life, and I have never made meatless-meatballs. Bravo! Also, I love that you put Parmesan in them. I’m going to try them! Thanks!

  • I’m always looking for recipes to make for all my vegan friends, so this one is definitely getting pinned for later! I’m sure I could cut out the Parmesan cheese and it would still be amazing. Tempeh can have such great texture.

    Cat

  • YUM – I would not be able to take pictures of this because I’m pretty sure I’d just devour the whole thing before it hit my plate! Looks like a must try! Xo, Sarah

  • This looks amazing! I know you’re ‘semi-veggie’ but just in case any veggies are reading who aren’t already aware I thought I’d point out (unless I’ve missed it in there somewhere) that Parmesan and many italian hard cheeses aren’t actually suitable for vegetarians. I didn’t realise myself for some time and was disappointed as I’d have a mountain of it on my pasta, but it’s made with rennet. Fear not, there are vegetarian alternatives! I’m partial to a vegetarian hard goats cheese. Love pasta so will def give this a go!

  • tee hee hee!

    But, seriously, these look great and I will definitely be gicing them a go. I’ve been looking for something a bit more interesting to add to my usual dinners list, and I’ve never tried cooking with tempeh before.

    Thanks!

  • These look delicious! I’ve never worked with tempeh before. Maybe I’ll give it a try! xoxo

  • Beautiful pictures! I find it hard to make spaghetti look nice in pictures. 🙂 My husband and I like to make tofu balls. I wonder what your recipe would be like “veganized?” The milk and parmesan would be easy to replace. Maybe corn starch for the egg?

    Jo

  • Had me crying with laughter… seriously, get it together….Hahaha! And the bonus? Not only was the post hilarious, but the recipe looks fab too!! #winning 🙂

  • I have a master recipe for my homemade tomato “gravy”, but I can’t wait to have this recipe on hand for when I’m feeding my vegetarian friends and want to whip out a classic!

  • This looks amazing, I think we should rename meatballs into simply spaghetti balls so all veggies can enjoy them without the stigma!
    Tempeh is hard to find here in London, but I’ll give Whole Foods a look just so I can make this.

  • I was seriously thinking the SAME THING! How can you not if you’ve ever seen (or danced to the soundtrack multiple times in the bathroom while getting ready) Rent??

    xoxo
    Taylor

  • Yep – YUM! I love making veggie meatballs but I also had the issue of what to call them?!? They look delish. I did mine with mushrooms and couscous so I might give another recipe a go 🙂
    Bec x

  • This recipe solves a real problem for me! Although we are not strict vegetarians, most of my family prefers vegetarian foods (and feels better when we avoid meat) so we generally have meat no more than once a week. The one problem is meatballs. My kids all LOVE LOVE LOVE meatballs and are very resentful that I hardly make them. This looks like a wonderful way to make everyone happy! Bookmarking to try soon.

  • I’ve been looking for a vegetarian version of this for a while. Can’t wait to give this recipe a whirl.

  • I love cooking with tempeh, but never considered meatballs. Thanks so much for the recipe, looks delish!
    -www.thepotatohuse.net

  • Mmmm. I love spaghetti & it’s always nice to jazz it up with some veg-friendly proteins. I don’t cook with tempeh often so this is a good excuse to test it out. :] // ☼ ☯

  • Wow- never thought about using tempeh for meatballs! What a great idea to keep in mind when I’m cooking dinner for my meat-free friends. Thanks for sharing, Didier- and I love the food styling of this photo too. Very simple and reminiscent of your classic spaghetti and meatballs you had growing up 🙂

  • Yum! These look delicious! I am a veggie who is allergic to soy, so most veggie meat options are out for me. I’m excited to try these!

    xoxo,
    kate

    ahoykate.com

  • Some places sell vegetarian Parmesan… I get it in a tub from Wholefoods and it works in exactly the same way as the real stuff (for example, if you’re using it in risotto it binds in the same way). Give it a go!

  • I’m laughing at your meatball name description, because my husband was just commenting last night that meatloaf was one of the greatest inventions ever. Because “it’s a loaf of meat!”

  • I’m very happy that you guys are sharing more vegan & vegetarian recipes. Thank you from all your vegan/veggie fans!! <3

  • Gosh I haven’t made meatballs in years! I used to make them all the time with vegetarian ground beef but I mostly stopped eating fake meat products in favour of whole foods (like tempeh!) ages ago and have had nary a meatball since. Time to change that! Thanks so much for the recipe, I’m def gonna make it soon!

  • This recipe looks delicious, it’s so nice to find a decent veggie alternative and not have to miss out on a classic 🙂 j x

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