bread breadsticks cashews comfort food family friends garlic Italian meatballs pasta spinach stuffed shells veggies white beans
The Withdrawals of Italian FoodJanuary 12, 2013
I think I've told you before that pasta was the first thing I learned to make. Over the years, ...
I think I've told you before that pasta was the first thing I learned to make. Over the years, my Italian cooking repertoire has grown just a little. Vegans don't usually have luck at Italian restaurants, or at least I usually don't. I really miss those huge pasta dishes with creamy sauce, and eggplant parmigiana with crispy crust and as we've discussed at length, meatballs. When you go to Italian restaurants, every time you think you spy an item deemed fit for vegan consumption, you always seem to spot a questionable dot of cheese or taste a suspicion of butter, or come to the sad realization that the beautiful color the breadsticks have was achieved by egg wash. The sad truth is that the creaminess in those pastas I once loved comes from cream, the crispiness in the eggplant parm comes from alternating layers of milk, egg and breadcrumbs, and the meatballs, well, meat. I've missed my Italian favorites so, and can no longer stand their omission from my diet. A ridiculously large Italian feast is surely in order.
The basics: A good pasta with a good sauce. My sauce is made with lots of caramelized onions, roasted garlic and a healthy pinch of chili flakes, and aggressively seasoned with oregano, thyme, and basil. I always blend my sauce. It's just a thing I have..
Can anyone remember their first stuffed shell? I think the first stuffed shell I had was in Connecticut somewhere on vacation with my family at about age 10. How did I live 10 years without any stuffed shells? A mystery to this day. From the day after my first stuffed shell on, I hardly ever wanted to eat anything else. These are stuffed with a cream made from cashews, tofu, parsley, nooch, and an italian-spiced lentil meat.
Authentic Italian spinach and beans. A staple in my house, Italian night or not. A hundred cloves of garlic, white wine, and some olive oil is all you really need.
I know I said before that I thought it was impossible to find deliciously meaty meatless meatballs. I've suffered over many mushy, starchy, dry, or too delicate meatless meatballs in the past. After much deliberation, and countless tests of recipes, I finally think I've created the proper meatless meetball. Completely devoid of meat, these meetballs take inspiration from italian polpetti, using bread soaked in almond milk to create the right texture after baking. They most definitely are full of starch and carbs on their own, so I like to serve them as a side, rather than on top of pasta or in a grinder, but starch lovers, I'm not naming names, have already eaten many a grinder with this recipe and over pasta time and time again. For this dinner, considering the ridiculousness I wanted, I made 100 meetballs. So feel free to halve the recipe or increase the size of the balls. Don't go bigger than 2 tablespoons per ball, though, or they'll be too squishy in the center. My meat-and-potatoes-kind-of dad told me that the meetballs might have been his favorite thing I'd ever made for him. So that's sayin' somethin'!
No Italian meal is complete without at least some kind of bread, roll, or bread rolled into a stick and baked. Breadsticks are somehow very special. If you make bread, people are like, "meff." If you make rolls, people are all like, "hmm." If you make breadsticks, people will flip out about how much they love breadsticks and have 7. These are rolled in olive oil, garlic powder and salt. Honestly, when you are all pissed off about the fiscal cliff, or your favorite vegan Ice cream shoppe closing, or about the animals in your attic banging around waking you up too early in the morning, just get yourself a breadstick. And things will be better. I promise.
What a fancy dinner! It might have taken me seven hours from start to finish, but I'd do it again in the name of ridiculously indulgent dinners, Italian food, and my friends and family.
The Mightiest Meatless Meetball You'll Ever Make:
4 day-old club sandwich rolls
2 cups unsweetned almond milk
1 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1 cup italian style breadcrumbs
1/3 cup nooch
1 14 oz can white beans
3 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
*If you don't have one of the dried herbs, you can roll without. If all you have is italian seasoning, I'd recommend using about 1/4 cup of it. If you don't have garlic powder, up the chopped garlic to 5 cloves. Now go stock your spice shelf, cheapskate!
Into a large mixing bowl, tear the sandwich rolls into pieces no bigger than 1 inch.
Pour almond milk over the bread and submerge the pieces by pressing down with your hands. Let stand about 20 minutes. When you return to it, most of the liquid should be absorbed. If it's not, then that's okay too.
While your bread soaks, mix together the breadcrumbs, vital wheat gluten, nooch, garlic powder, paparika, oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, pepper flakes, sage, marjoram, salt and pepper. Mash the beans in a separate bowl using a fork or a potato masher. Add to breadcrumb mixture along with the chopped garlic, tomato paste and soy sauce. Now stir in the soaked bread and combine the mixture well. Get in there with your hands and knead the meetball dough pretty good for about 2-3 minutes until gluten-y strings start to form. Now, you can roll out your meetballs!
Line 2 baking pans with parchment or silpat. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Begin rolling your meetballs, placing the completed ones on your baking trays. Aim for each meetball to be the size of a golfball, prehaps a smidge tinier. Spray the tops of the balls with some canola or olive oil cooking spray to enhance the browning of the meetball exteriors.Bake for about 30 minutes, then flip and bake about 10-15 more until the meetballs feel firm to the touch. Serve warm with lots of marinara sauce.