Midweek Delicacy: Meatball-off Vegetarian vs Meat with Spaghetti

Vegetarian-ballsThis past weekend my Italian friend, James Zipadelli @ jameszipadelli.com, and I had a Meatball-off where we came up with unique meatball recipes and put them to a taste off. James created amazing vegan-balls, which would fool most meat eaters. In honor of spring,  I used ground lamb beef rather than what traditional three meats. Both versions can be made at the same time to accommodate both meat eaters and vegetarians as long as you separate the sauces when finishing off the “meat”-balls.

Although these meatballs are unusual, from these recipes you will have the core pieces to make your own variations easily and produce a fantastic family dinner. Serve with a simple arugula, Radicchio salad with homemade dressing of olive oil and fresh lemon. You can combine the leftovers for a different kind of pasta dish to have later in the week.

Personally, I thought both dishes were amazing. Create them yourselves and you be the judge. Share the pictures of your creations on Instagram.

Happy eating friends!



Serves 4-6

For the Meatballs:  makes 14-16 
1 pound ground Lamb
1 pound ground Turkey (or ground Beef  80/20)
1/2 cup fresh Breadcrumbs, 4 slices, crusts removed – use bread starting to go stale (optional)
1/2 cup seasoned dry Breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons fresh Flat-leaf Parsley, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground Nutmeg (optional)
1 extra-large Egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the Vegan-balls: makes 10James Zipadelli
1 roll Gimme Lean Veggie Beef, cut into 10 – 1″ equal rounds
1 Green Bell-Pepper, finely chopped
1 Tomato, finely chopped
1 White Onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh Flat-leaf Parsley, chopped
4 tablespoons Olive oil
1/2 cup seasoned dry Breadcrumbs

 For the sauce: makes 6-8
1 tablespoon Olive oil
2 cloves of Garlic, lightly smashed
1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (26-ounce) package Tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree
2 (26-ounce) packages Tomatoes, or plum tomatoes chopped
2 tablespoons Tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh Flat-leaf Parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh Basil, chopped
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
2 whole Bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

PreparationTomato Sauce

Start with preparation of Tomato Sauce

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add the garlic and saute over medium heat for 1 minute. (For heat add chili flakes when you add the garlic.)
  2. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up any brown bits in the pan. Cook until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes, paste, 1/2 the parsley, bay leaves salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes.

 Tip: If making both kinds of meatballs separate the sauce before starting the next part splitting half into another sauce pan. Be sure each pan has equal parts of garlic and bay leaves.

Second start preparation of the Meatballs / Vegan-balls

For Meatballs:

  1. Place the ground meats, both breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork.
  2. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2″ meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.
  3. Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil.
  4. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil without crowding and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork about 10 minutes for each batch.
  5. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels.

For Vegan-balls:Vegan Balls

  1. Combine the onion, tomato, pepper, parsley. Season with salt and pepper
  2. Place the 10 cut rounds of the veggie beef in front of you. Scoop up a handful of the veggie mix and combine with one round of the veggie mix shaping into a 2″ ball.
  3. Place the breadcrumbs on a plate or flat surface and lightly coat each ball.
  4. Pour 1/2 olive oil in medium sized skillet and heat on medium heat.
  5. Place 1/2 the vegan-balls in the skillet. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, until browned.
  6. Flip to other side and cook for 5 more minutes, until browned. Return to plate covered with paper towel. Cook second batch.

Finishing up the sauce & dish:

  1. To the sauce add in basil, oregano, last 1/2 of the parsley reserved for sauce.
  2. Return the meatballs / vegan-balls to the sauce,  cover and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes. (For the sauce with the real meat make sure the meatballs are cooked through.)
  3. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti with fresh grated Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s