classic spaghetti marinara with vegan kidney bean meatless meatballs


Here is a piece of information about me: I don't like when people call things that aren't meat, well, "meat." And I don't mean that this bothers me as a vegetarian. It bothers me as a human, on a level that we can all relate to. It's just incorrect. What is not meat can not also be meat, am I right? When I walk into a vegetarian or vegan or both restaurant and find things like "chicken" on the menu, I don't want to have to read the fine print just to find out that faux poultry is actually a mix of various glutens, vegetable proteins and a pinch of magic.

And I judged these dish-namers pretty much always. I tsk-tsk-ed them profusely. What, I would think to myself, they couldn't think of another word for bacon here? They couldn't just call it what it is, a piece of crispy, pan-fried, smoke-flavored seitan?

Well, I guess not, because when I prepared this dish and then had to name it, I froze. They aren't meatballs and yet they stand in the place of where meatballs would usually be. And they aren't just balls, because that's just as problematic for another reason. And kidney bean balls just didn't quite roll of the tongue. Just as "vegan-kidney-bean-meatless-meatballs" also does not, but at least it gets it all out there.

For this recipe, you will need:

1 15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of very fine bread crumbs (in a pinch, I have also found that 1/4 cup of cooked quinoa is also a great binder)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
Zest of one lemon
Salt & pepper
1 pound of whole wheat spaghetti (or any pasta shape you like)
2-4 cups of marinara sauce, prepared

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prep one large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, mash up your beans until they become pasty. You can used the back of a fork to get this started, but feel free to use your hands if it seems easier. Add in your chopped onion, garlic and bread crumbs and mix together. Next add the nutritional yeast, half the olive oil, lemon zest and seasonings. Mix it all up (again, hands work) and get everything evenly distributed. If it feels a little dry or the mixture isn't sticking together, add a touch more olive oil.

Form your bean paste mixture into balls (about golfball-sized) and place them on your prepared baking sheet. Bake them for about 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through, until they're slightly browned and crispy on the outside.

Get a large pot of salted water boil on high heat. Prepare your pasta according to the package instructions. Once al dente (about 9 minutes for our whole wheat spaghetti), drain your pasta and return to your pot. Immediately toss with your marinara sauce (warmed through) and top with as many meatless kidney bean balls as you want. I couldn't think of a better name for them, so you might as well go big.

Feel like every night should be pasta night?