Italian Bean Balls & Spaghetti Squash
We have been meaning to share this recipe with you guys for a while. We've made them a bunch of times and we kinda feel stingy for keeping the yumminess to ourselves for so long. Honestly, we love these bean balls! And we think the recipe is perfect just the way it is. Many times we'll come across a recipe, or a few similar recipes, and we'll use them as just a loose point of reference. But this one is right on the money. It's from one of our absolute favorite food blogs, Oh She Glows.
Aaron's childhood favorite was good ol' classic Spaghetti & Meatballs. This dish is kinda like the responsible adult version. And when I say "responsible adult", being vegetarian or vegan has nothing to do with it…I'm referring to the idea of sneakily replacing red meat and pasta with wall-to-wall vegetables…and you still get your protein, by way of kidney beans and walnuts. But the health benefits of this meal seriously take a back seat to how deeeelish it is. So many layers of great flavor!
Every time we had this dish we made it just like you see in the pic above…with spaghetti squash and spaghetti sauce…but the awesome Italian Bean Balls are the focus of this post. We are big fans of spaghetti squash, but you can certainly use pasta…or heck, you can even make an Italian Bean Ball Hero!
When we prepared ours, the first thing we did was roast our spaghetti squash. We blogged a quick how-to here. Once it was ready we kept it warm, covered in foil, on top of the oven.
And as far as sauce, just go with your favorite homemade or jarred variety.
Here is what you'll need for the bean balls:
3/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped and toasted
3/4 cup rolled oats, processed into a coarse flour
1 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (about 2 large)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons ground flax + 3 tbsp water, mixed
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and toast your walnuts for 7-9 minutes, until fragrant and golden.
Meanwhile, add the oats into the food processor and process until finely chopped. You want the texture to be like a coarse flour.
Now add your oat flour, grated carrot, chopped parsley, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, walnuts, into a large bowl. Stir to combine.
Add the drained and rinsed beans into the food processor and process until finely chopped. You want the mixture to be a coarse paste with some beans still intact, but don't completely puree the mixture.
Stir the processed beans into the bowl with the vegetables and oat flour.
Now you can make your flax "egg". You can buy flax that is already ground, but we usually have seeds that we pulse in the food processor until ground.
Just whisk together the ground flax and water in a small bowl. Let it sit for only 15-20 seconds, any longer, and it will get too thick. Then stir it into your bean mixture until fully combined.
Next, stir the oil, oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using) into the bowl, adjusting amounts to taste if necessary.
Shape the mixture into 18-20 balls (the size of golf-balls), packing each ball tightly between your hands so it holds together well. Place each ball onto the prepared baking sheet an inch or two apart.
Bake for 20 minutes, then gently flip the balls and and bake for another 15-20 minutes until golden on both sides.
While ours baked in the oven we made one of our fave sauces. It's called "Spicy Slurpy Spaghetti Sauce", and it's from one of our favorite cookbooks, Isa Does It.
All of the ingredients are right there in the pic. Crushed tomatoes, a chopped onion, minced garlic, brown sugar, a little salt, a handful of herbs & spices, including a generous dose of red pepper flakes. It is so delicious!
After baking, place balls on a cooling rack for 10 minutes to cool slightly.
Ready to serve…just sprinkle some ribbons of fresh basil on top, and you are set! We have made this exact meal many times. The bean balls really have so much depth of flavor…and the texture is perfect. They are delicious, and I think it would be hard to find tastebuds who would disagree.
We hope you love them, and we'd love to hear about your experiences in making them…any things that you changed…or if you do in fact serve them as an Italian Bean Ball Sub. We'd love to see pics too!
xo, Jenny & Aaron