I was at IKEA the other day for some odds and ends and on the way out I picked up one more thing I'd wanted to get my hands on (and into my tummy) for a while now: a bag of vegan meatballs.
I was as excited as the next vegan when IKEA famously introduced these last year amidst tons of media coverage. But I was also a little underwhelmed when I read their ingredient list: sweet potatoes and chickpeas, I remembered thinking, did not sound like meatball material. But I don't judge without trying, and I couldn't wait to try.
The IKEA meatballs certainly lack the texture of a regular IKEA (or any) meatball made with meat, and they are a bit sweet which is an unexpected taste in a meatball, but they are rather tasty. Desi claimed they tasted like bondas, spiced lentil dumplings from South India. That sweetness, though, was good with the tangy marinara and even Desi could not stop digging in. I also like that the ingredient list does not include any preservatives or other alien-sounding stuff and the meatballs have a good dose of protein. For those with Celiac considerations, the meatballs are also gluten-free.
This Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe I have for you today is an easy one, and rather lazy because it includes these very IKEA meatballs and my favorite vegan marinara recipe. This is a delicious dish, and I've found that it does very well with my eight-year-old (yes, Jay had a birthday in June) whose love for marinara is matched by his love for meat substitutes. I talk to Jay often about the lives of animals in the food industry, and he is sensitive and aware of the cruelty inherent in most meat production, but he also watches his friends at school scarf down pepperoni pizza, chicken nuggets and hot dogs day in and day out, and I can see that part of him wonders why he cannot have all that. Meat substitutes, I find, are a good compromise and thank goodness you can find -- or make -- a substitute for almost anything these days.
Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs
- 24 vegan meatballs
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound spaghetti (I use thin whole wheat spaghetti, but use the regular if you wish)
For the marinara
- 28 oz San Marzano tomatoes (removed to a bowl and crushed with your fingers.)
- 1 sprig basil (about 6 large leaves)
- 7 cloves garlic (cut into thin slivers)
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Start a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Make sure you salt it liberally. Cook the pasta per package directions until al dente.
- While the pasta water is boiling, start the meatballs and marinara.
- First, heat 1 teaspoon of oil and add the frozen meatballs to the skillet. Stir and then cover with a lid and let the meatballs heat through, stirring occasionally. It took me about 5 minutes.
- Remove the meatballs and set aside. In the same skillet, heat ¼ cup of olive oil.
- Add the garlic cloves. When they start to simmer and turn very lightly golden (don't let them burn), add the tomatoes and 1 cup of water (Moskin recommends swirling this in the empty tomato can first to get the last of those precious juices out). Add the red pepper flakes and stir.
- Place the basil on top of the sauce and, when it wilts, submerge it into the sauce by pressing down with a ladle.
- Let the sauce simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes until thickened. Add the meatballs and stir gently. Turn off heat and discard the basil in the sauce.
- Serve the marinara with meatballs over cooked spaghetti.