When I first became a vegan, I didn’t eat tofu or tempeh for almost an entire year. I was terrified of the mushy texture of tofu and thought I would hate the nutty flavor of tempeh. Boy was I wrong! Tempeh is a great base for vegan meatballs that actually have a “meaty” texture. These meatballs get crisp on the outside and stay steamy and soft on the inside.
Homemade spaghetti sauce is another thing I never made until becoming vegan. I mean, how easy is it to just open a jar and dump it into a pot? One day I made the mistake of trying a sauce recipe from Isa Does It (one of my favorite vegan cookbooks of all time) and I was forever ruined. It was so simple to make homemade sauce and the taste a thousand times better than store bought. You don’t need to spend hours simmering a pasta sauce; you can spend 30 minutes and take your dish to a whole new level of flavor explosion!
Vegan meatballs are beautiful. Yes they are.
Tempeh has a nutty, earthy taste and is great for making hand kneaded dishes such as meatballs. A lot of new vegans feel that the taste of tempeh is a bit strong, which is why it's best to boil it! Boiling the tempeh takes some of the earthiness out, and allows it to plump up and become easier to work with. This dish has a kick, so if you like less spice, leave out the cayenne pepper!
- 8 ounces tempeh
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 sprig fresh sage
- 1 cup water
- 1 flax egg (1 tablespoon of ground flax seed whisked with 3 tablespoons water, left to thicken for a few minutes)
- 2 garlic cloves, very finely minced
- 1/2 cup seasoned panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon cajun seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 yellow onion, diced small
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 sixteen ounce can crushed tomatoes with basil
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 16 ounces dried pasta of any variety
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray to prevent sticking or use a silicone baking mat (the meatballs will stick if you don't use spray).
- Crumble tempeh into a small pot with a lid and add fresh rosemary and sage sprigs. Top with 1 cup water and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to a simmer for approximately 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Try not to stir to violently, or the rosemary may break off into the tempeh and you'll have to pick it out later. You don't want to bite into a solid piece of rosemary leaf later!
- Allow tempeh to cool, then remove rosemary and sage. Place tempeh in a bowl and add the flax egg, minced garlic, breadcrumbs and panko.
- Mix thoroughly with your hands. Yes, your hands. Don't get scared now.
- Roll rounded tablespoons of the mixture into balls. I got 15 smallish meatballs. You don't want them to be gigantic because they'll take forever to cook if they are.
- Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, flipping over halfway through. They should be slightly crispy on the outside and steamy on the inside.
- Line a large pot with a thin layer of water. Add diced onion and saute over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, until onion is translucent and soft. Add garlic and saute 60 seconds.
- Add crushed tomatoes and all the spices. (Note: I like a slightly sweeter sauce, so I use 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. If you like a less sweet sauce, start with 1 tablespoon and taste).
- Stir sauce together and reduce heat. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until meatballs and pasta are ready.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Top with a generous scoop of sauce and 3-4 meatballs. Enjoy!
I suggest mixing up the meatballs first, then starting the pasta sauce. After adding the crushed tomatoes to the sauce pot, pop the meatballs in the oven and start your pasta water. This will help everything get done at the same time!