Italian Bean Balls & Spaghetti Squash Noodles

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veganmeatballs 2464   Italian Bean Balls & Spaghetti Squash Noodles

I’m on this weird veggie burger/ball lucky testing streak. After months of testing veggie burger and ball recipes to no end, everything is finally clicking into place and the ingredients are binding and syncing and dancing on my taste buds. I would shed a tear of joy if I weren’t too busy stuffing my face in veggie goodness!

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I’ve had many requests for a vegan “meat” ball recipe and I thought it was time make some magic happen! It’s actually something I’ve been working on here and there over the past year or two, never quite getting it right, but determined to keep trying. Initially, I was working on a mushroom lentil combo, but I had issues with the lentils drying out too much, producing a stiff and cranky end result. I’m not going to give up on it though; I just had to switch it up for a while lest I go completely mad.

In the meantime, I came up with these Italian bean balls. Considering that we polished them off in less than 2 days, I’d say they were a hit on all fronts. I don’t want to pretend that these taste like traditional meat balls, but they are magnificent in their own right with a great flavour and texture. And to me, that’s what vegan cooking is all about – creating alternatives to traditional fare that taste so damn good who cares that they don’t have meat. That’s always my goal with recipe creation. Options. Enticing veggie-based alternatives.

The hardest part was choosing which bean to use. Navy? Kidney? Pinto? Black? Chickpea? Adzuki? etc. Kidney beans won (so far, anyway). Not to mention, the purple/red skins are quite beautiful all mashed up among the speckled orange and green bits. Have you ever seen such a vibrant batter?

veganmeatballs   Italian Bean Balls & Spaghetti Squash Noodles

To infuse some Italian flavours into the mix, I added plenty of fresh basil, finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, dried oregano, and fresh parsley. For some depth of flavour, toasted walnuts really took it all to the next level. I just love the combo of walnuts and tomato (such as in my pesto), they were just made to go together in the same mouthful!

To keep with the light and fresh theme, I served it over a bed of spaghetti squash. It’s #2 on my squash favorite’s list with delicata reigning supreme and butternut claiming third place. This list seems to change every week, but for now those three are in steady rotation in my kitchen. With a sprinkle of pink salt and freshly ground black pepper, the crunchy strands of spaghetti squash are ready to form a fiber-filled base for all your pasta dreams. We felt so energized and light after eating this meal- always appreciated this time of the year when it’s easy to crawl under a blanket and hibernate. Well, we still do that too, but at least we can feel a bit better in the process.

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Italian Bean Balls and Spaghetti Squash Noodles

Vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, soy-free

By

print icon   Italian Bean Balls & Spaghetti Squash Noodles

Delightful Italian bean balls filled with basil, oregano, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes round out this fresh & light meal of spaghetti squash "pasta" and tomato sauce. I bake the bean balls for a good amount of time until golden and quite firm, so they stand up better to the tomato sauce. I suggest roasting the spaghetti squash in advance (and preparing tomato sauce in advance too, if making homemade) and simply reheating it just before serving. I heat the tomato sauce in a pot and once it's hot enough I gently fold in the bean balls to cover in the sauce and then serve it immediately. The bean balls will soften with time, so it's best not to leave them in the sauce for too long. While they don't taste like traditional meat balls, I can assure you these are a flavourful plant-based option with a great texture! Feel free to shape the mixture into burger patties, if that floats your boat. This recipe is adapted from my Thai Sweet Potato Burgers.

Yield
18-20 bean balls
Prep Time
Cook time
Total Time

Ingredients:

For the bean balls:
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped and toasted
  • 3/4 cup gluten-free 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)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Toast the walnuts for 7-9 minutes until fragrant and golden.
  2. Meanwhile, add the oats into the food processor and process until finely chopped. You want the texture to be like a coarse flour.
  3. Add the grated carrot, chopped parsley, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, walnuts, and oat flour into a large bowl. Stir to combine.
  4. 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.
  5. In a mug, whisk together the ground flax and water. Let it sit for only 15-20 seconds, any longer and it will get too thick. Stir into the vegetable bean mixture until fully combined.
  6. Stir the oil, oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using) into the bowl, adjusting amounts to taste if necessary.
  7. 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.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, then gently flip the balls and and bake for another 15-20 minutes until golden on both sides.
  9. After baking, place balls on a cooling rack for 10 minutes to cool slightly.
  10. Serve with spaghetti squash or pasta and tomato sauce (either homemade or store-bought). I also sprinkled some of my vegan Parmesan on top.

Notes: 1) To make this recipe nut-free, omit the walnuts and use sunflower seeds instead (or omit entirely - but keep in mind they add a great crunch!). 2) For how to roast a spaghetti squash, see this post.

beanballsandspaghetti   Italian Bean Balls & Spaghetti Squash Noodles

Stay tuned tomorrow for a special reveal of the Canadian cover of my cookbook!

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{ 150 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy October 30, 2013

Yum! The photographs are beautiful! What a delicious looking meal! I like the spaghetti and beanballs from Veganomicon, but I love the use of spaghetti squash here (have been hooked on it ever since I tried your recent Tex Mex spaghetti squash recipe), and I think the sundried tomatoes probably add so much goodness. Can’t wait to try this recipe out. How do you come up with this stuff?? You are amazing!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) October 30, 2013

lots of testing and trials (oh and lots of eating! my fav part) =) Thanks for your kind words Kathy!

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Tara November 24, 2013

Hi! Do you know how to make this recipe with soaked oats? I keep reading how beneficial it is to soak oats (especially) and beans before consuming. Thanks!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 24, 2013

Hey Tara, I’m sorry I don’t know how to make it with soaked oats. Maybe someone else has an idea though!

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Lindsay Eddleblute January 4, 2014

I made this tonight along with your Kale salad topped with pecan parmesan and oh my gosh!!! They were both amazing. I have made tons of homemade veggie burgers, but not meatballs and these came with perfect texture and flavor…great job on them and I can’t wait to try more recipes from your site! :) I know it’s not part of this recipe but the pecan parmesan is wonderful and I am already making extra to have for salads and entrees..love it!

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Erica { EricaDHouse.com } October 30, 2013

This may be the most delicious looking recipe I’ve ever seen on here! I’m thinking I need to go to the store after work so I can make this tonight!

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Virtually Vegan Mama October 30, 2013

These look fresh and delicious and I love how they are baked…this is something I would definitely enjoy making!

Looks beautiful too!

xoxo

Jen

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Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat October 30, 2013

Mm these sound awesome Ange! You always have an amazing way of making meals that would normally be very messy look so perfect and beautiful! I love experimenting with new veggie ‘meat’ recipes as well, but they often mean eating lots of leftover/failed attempts and lots of beans for a few days following! I totally trust ya on this one – can’t wait to give it a try!

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Chelsea @ BigBitesLittleBudget October 30, 2013

I have all of the ingredients on hand, carrots in the garden waiting to be picked and a perfect spaghetti squash ready to be cooked. I will definitely be making this tonight!

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Elyse @myveganp October 30, 2013

Love the bright colors – and love spaghetti squash for skinny pasta!

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Jennifer B.T. October 30, 2013

So excited to try these tonight. Looks delicious.
Many blessings.

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Abby @ The Frosted Vegan October 30, 2013

Seriously you read my mind with these! I love spaghetti squash but have been overdoing it a bit latley, buuut these could coax me back into jumping back on the train.

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janae @ bring joy October 30, 2013

I have a lentil meatball recipe–but it’s super basic because my kids kinda freak out if I start adding a ton of a veggies in their “meat’balls or veggie burgers.

These look so flavorful–I will have to try on my kids–if it passes with them, it’s for SURE a winner in my house.

(can’t wait to see your cookbook cover–exciting!)

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Mari @ Living with Purpose October 30, 2013

These look great! Would they work with pecans instead of walnuts?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) October 30, 2013

I can’t see why not :)

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Kate October 30, 2013

Do you think that these could be frozen and then reheated without getting weird in texture or taste?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) October 30, 2013

Hey Kate, Yes I do! Bake them first and cool completely before freezing. Then to reheat, thaw first (if possible, but I wouldnt microwave them) them and bake them in the oven until heated throughout. Hope this helps!

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Christine @ Gotta Eat Green October 30, 2013

Finding a good vegan ball recipe is not easy. I’ve gone through so many test runs and trials to find one that sticks together..I have hope for this one! Looks delicious!

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Mallory @ Because I Like Chocolate October 30, 2013

I’ve made veggie burgers but never meatless “meat” balls. These look like you have hit the jackpot!

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Cassie October 30, 2013

I just found your website a few days ago, but I am absolutely salivating over your creations! I cannot wait to try one!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) October 30, 2013

Thank you Cassie! Hope you enjoy the recipes :)

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Nancy K October 30, 2013

Mmm, looks yummy! Any sub suggestions for the walnuts to make it completely nut-free? (allergic household)

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Shundara@SavyNaturalista October 30, 2013

All those spices and veggies in the “meat” balls look good enough to eat without the spaghetti!! Yummy..

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ana October 30, 2013

What a coincidence! Just two weeks ago I posted a recipe with vegan bean “meatballs”! I used different spices and real spaghetti and it tasted quite good!
Love your recipes!

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Emily - It Comes Naturally Blog October 30, 2013

I was planning a little something like this for Halloween – eyeballs, blood and worms (zucchini spaghetti). Cool!

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Kat October 30, 2013

I’m constantly looking for new ways to eat beans as they are by far my main source of protein but I always wind up defaulting to a squeeze of lemon or adding them to soup. Thank you for doing all of the leg work for me! :)

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Anele @ Success Along the Weigh October 30, 2013

Okay, I have been such a dork in my not giving spaghetti squash a try but this recipe may have finally push me over the edge. This looks AWESOME!

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Margo October 30, 2013

Love this and your blog!! How about freezing them? Would you do it before or after baking them?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) October 30, 2013

Hey Margo, I think they should freeze just fine (because my veggie burgers do and these are similar). Bake them first though, then cool completely, before freezing. Thaw and then reheat in the oven until warmed throughout. Hope this helps!

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Beth October 30, 2013

This looks so good! I never liked meat (haven’t eaten red meat or ground meat of any kind in over 20 years) so the replacements never piqued my interest… until now! Can’t wait to try it!

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Averie @ Averie Cooks October 30, 2013

Those bean balls are just loaded up with great texture, which I love! And spaghetti squash – I havent made one in ages. Must change that! Such a pretty meal you made, Angela!

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Maria October 30, 2013

This recipe looks amazing! I can not wait to try it out. I have tried other recipes for bean balls that just weren’t right. I seriously love your recipes and am patiently waiting for your cookbook to come out! I always look to your blog first for recipes because I have been so happy with the results. In fact, I have been eating your lentil walnut loaf all week!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) October 30, 2013

Thank you Maria, you are so sweet! :)

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Juliana October 30, 2013

Thank you for this masterpiece Angie :) can’t wait to try it!
Do you think they will freeze well like the bean burgers?

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Veronica @ Wrapped in Newspaper October 30, 2013

These look delcious. I always struggle with the consistency of burgers/’meat’balls i’ll have to give these a try!

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Laura October 30, 2013

I cannot wait to make this except once concern. I am living abroad right now and I do not have a food processor. I do have a Vitamix – could I use that instead here? It seems so but wonder what you think. Thanks!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) October 30, 2013

Hey Laura, Yes I do think you could use the Vitamix for the oats. I would mash the beans by hand though. enjoy!

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christine October 30, 2013

Can I leave the walnuts out?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) October 30, 2013

Yes you can – see my note in the recipe.

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sarah October 30, 2013

This looks Delish!! Do you have any ideas for an alternative to oats in the recipe?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) October 30, 2013

hmm maybe breadcrumbs? or is it a sensitivity issue? The oats help bind, so you would need another binder in there most likely. Mind you, I haven’t tried them without the oats…maybe the flax egg is enough, but it would be very sticky without the oat flour. I would try a bit of gluten free flour but I wouldnt use much. Maybe 1/4 cup max?

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sarah October 31, 2013

Thanks and yes it is due to a sensitivity. I am sensitive to almost all GF grains and gluten containing grains. Maybe I could use a little almond flour?

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Jenn October 30, 2013

This looks so great! Have you tried to freeze the bean balls?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) October 30, 2013

Hey Jenn, Not yet, but I would expect they freeze well since they are similar to my veggie burgers. Just cook them and cool completely before freezing. Enjoy!

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Lillian @ Seize the Latte October 30, 2013

Oh, yay! I’m really excited for this recipe; I’ve been trying to cut way back on my meat consumption, but since I have Celiac all the wheat-based meat alternatives have been total non-starters for me. I’ve tried coming up with my own alternatives, but they’re usually an epic fail — so I must say, this is a big accomplishment. :) Huzzah!

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Maria Tadic October 30, 2013

These look so good! I love making vegetarian burgers and meatballs too – and it is definitely hard to get the texture just right. Will be trying these out soon! Thanks!

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allie October 30, 2013

i spent a whole afternoon making a similar recipe then into the crockpot with my sauce…huge mistake…it all fell apart! ha but so very delicious. I will try again!

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kelli October 30, 2013

I am making these now!! They smell so good! I didn’t have plain oats so I used an oat, barley, quinoa, rye, wheat blend. Thanks for all your great recipes :)

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Dana @ Conscious Kitchen Blog October 30, 2013

This sounds like a wonderful alternative to traditional spaghetti and meatballs. I agree that you probably can’t completely replace the taste of meatballs, but I think this perfect for lightening up a comfort meal. I could totally imagine enjoying this on a cold winter evening.

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molly October 30, 2013

Fabulous. I love recipes that have flax in them. It’s so healthy. I found a delicious roasted golden flax seed and chia seed blend on amazon called FitFlax. I’m adding it to a lot of my recipes.

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Michelle October 30, 2013

Hi: Can I substitute almond meal for the ground oats in this recipe. Thanks.

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Jeana October 30, 2013

These look awesome, thanks for sharing! One question – it looks like there is something purple (maybe red onion) in the balls but I didn’t see it in the recipe — is that just funny color on my computer? Or did I miss an ingredient?

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Magic and Mayhem November 1, 2013

I thought it was red onions at first, too, but I think that’s the kidney beans. :)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 1, 2013

Yes it’s the beans! :)

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Alex @ Kenzie Life October 30, 2013

I was really excited for your thai sweet potato veggie burgers and now I’m doubly excited about these bean balls!! When I was a kid, meatballs were one of the only types of meat I’d eat and now I just miss having something to eat with marinara sauce :)

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Alexandra Aimee October 30, 2013

This looks delicious!

I have an unrelated/nosy question… Your skin always looks amazing, and I’m curious what foundation you use! Over on my blog (www.herfixationmedia.com) I am testing the top eight cult favorite foundations in what I’ve dubbed The Great Winter Foundation Face Off, and I would like to test whatever you’re using!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) October 31, 2013

Hi Alexandra, Aw thank you! I use mineral powder mostly – Bare Minerals or other similar brands. It isn’t the best in the dry winter months though, so I’m on the hunt for a good liquid foundation that’s cruelty-free.

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Melissa Coyle May 7, 2014

Check out RMS Beauty’s un-coverup. Has raw, organic ingredients and cruelty free. Gives you a nice dewy look and the ingredients are amazing including coconut oil, jojoba oil, seed oils, etc. It melts into your skin. Changed my complexion… have a look :)

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Haley June 23, 2014

I am currently looking for a new skin care line, so I checked out RMS Beauty and their foundations and mascaras all have beeswax. Something to be aware of if you’re a vigilant vegan. I will personally continue searching for a product that is 100% vegan.

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