Italian Bean Balls & Spaghetti Squash Noodles

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on October 30, 2013

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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?

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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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4.6 from 17 reviews
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Italian Bean Balls and Spaghetti Squash Noodles

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

By

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

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.

Nutrition Information

Tips:

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.

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

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RITA August 7, 2014 at 11:05 am

I can’t wait to get your book. I have been trying to find recipes with gluten free and soy free together. I have looked at your reviews and hope I can get my husband to eat more vegan. Thank you for all your work to help us.

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Ruxie August 12, 2014 at 8:18 pm

I made this recipe tonight… It had me at first bite… these are the most delicious meatless “meat” balls I’ve ever had. I could have these every day :-). Another successful recipe. Thanks Angela! I have not found a recipe that was not delicious and really easy to make!! I wish you published a book with all these recioes :-) I would pre-order it now!! :-)

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melissa August 31, 2014 at 1:12 pm

This recipe sounds delicious! Could you recommend any other beans, besides kidney, that might work well in this recipe?

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Jen September 9, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Great recipe, everyone in this picky family loved it! Thank you so much!

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Sheri September 30, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Can you substitute anything for the sun-dried tomatoes (or leave them out)? We have a nut AND tomato allergy in our household.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) September 30, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Hi Sheri,

You can leave them out, but they offer a lot of flavour to the recipe. You may need to boost the spices and possibly the garlic.

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Mel October 12, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Hello there! I’m wondering if it’s okay to replace the flax egg with regular egg? Ground flax and I don’t mix well!

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Dale October 21, 2014 at 7:46 am
Recipe Rating:

It was very good! My kids who already eat very well and are used to my always trying new things, loved them. I made my own sauce while roasting the spaghetti squash, and then made the meatless balls. I can’t use walnuts b/c my son has an allergic reaction but, I used blended up raw unshelled pumpkin seeds. You can also use sunflower seeds blended up, too. I also put nutritional yeast on when I served it.

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Melissa November 1, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Hi Angela!! First I must tell you my latest obsession is you and your cookbook. I started dabbling with vegan cooking just out of a passion for healthy eating and the
second cookbook I bought early this summer was yours.What an amazing choice I made!! I’m totally addicted. AS a result, my sister and Mom are too! We just keep saying to one another “I tried page XX and it was so good! I can’t believe they are all so good!” Also, my husband knows your Dad (we’re from Shediac, NB) so you may soon hear a story about my obsession from him ;) I actually bought the book before we made that connection. SMALL WORLD!!

I just stumbled upon this recipe and I have to make it this minute. I think I have every bean BUT kidney. You mentioned you tested a lot of beans. If I had to use a different bean, which one should it be if any at all?

Thanks a bunch. :)

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Cecilie November 2, 2014 at 7:49 pm
Recipe Rating:

Really great recipe! I looked at a lot of different vegan meatball recipes but a lot of them had lentils in them, and I do not like the taste of lentils very much. This recipe was really yummy. I had to add two ingredients though – 1 small onion and some finely chopped celery. I also put more carrots and walnuts than the recipe called for. The consistency was perfect! I prefer my meatballs to not have quite so much texture so all the ingredients went into the food processor at some point. :) All in all, this is a favorite than I plan to keep around!

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Alesha November 13, 2014 at 8:34 pm

I can’t do nuts…can I omit??

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Nina Vrolijk November 18, 2014 at 9:48 am

So I was wondering if I could make these with chickpeas. I read that you have tried it with chickpeas? Can you maybe remember how that turned out?

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Esther November 21, 2014 at 7:27 am

Hi, I was just wondering if you could use gluten free bread? Since my daughter is sensitive to oat. Will it still hold the bean balls together?

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Roxy December 31, 2014 at 10:35 pm
Recipe Rating:

I made these a while ago and enjoyed them quite a bit! Great texture :)

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Katy G. January 8, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Going to make this for dinner tonight, along with your Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Caesar Salad. I made the balls last Sunday and have them in the freezer, so they will be easy to pull out and warm in some homemade tomato sauce. I started prepping the salad and wow, the dressing is amazing! It is going to be fantastic! I am loving the new year, how health becomes the focus. So far, I have your Moroccan Yam Burgers, the Italian Bean Balls, the Crispy Quinoa Cakes and your Thai Sweet Potato Burgers made and in my freezer to pull out for lunches or dinner. Just yesterday my husband and I took the Big Vegan Bowl for lunch and topped it with some leftover Creamy Hemp Seed Dressing…it was so filling and nutrient dense. Thank you for all the great recipes and inspiration.

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TinaStone January 14, 2015 at 2:17 pm
Recipe Rating:

It’s like every one of your recipes that I try is a hit. These balls are no exception, glorious! They hold together perfectly, the texture and flavour are great. You are such a talent! Just bought your first cookbook and I can’t wait for the next :)

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Wendy January 17, 2015 at 8:35 pm

I’ve tried more recipes than I can count from your site and this is one of the BEST! My three boys even gave their seal of approval. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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Joyce February 2, 2015 at 11:19 pm

Hey, Angela, this recipe is great. It inspired me. I used black beans and quick oats and made some black bean meatless balls. They turned out very good. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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Laura March 25, 2015 at 9:09 am
Recipe Rating:

I had been drooling to try this recipe for awhile now for my vegan 2 yr old son. It did not go as expected. I roasted my little spaghetti squashes as instructed. I scraped the strands out, then realized, to my intense dismay, they were crispy hard. I googled it and read some sites where it said to roast the squashes flesh side down in the pan for 1.5 hrs. I always roast butternut squash and acorn squash with cut side face down in the pan with a little water for about an hr, and they always turn out great. Anyway, I know from past experience spaghetti squash does cook tender, so from now on I will cook it the way I have always cooked squash. Regarding the bean balls…So I did puree those babies, only because they were for my son. So my son helped scoop the dough and I rolled them, and then he started dipping his fingers into the balls and enthusiastically exclaimed, “Yummy!! Sweet!!” I had to stop him from eating all the balls uncooked, as there were already funny, yet cute, finger marks in all of them where dough was now missing. So, long story short, I cooked them as directed, and now my son doesn’t like them. Neither do I. A complete bust and day’s worth of wasted cooking effort. I also did make the sauce to go with this, and the sauce in my opinion was okay. I had made a marinara 2 days before I liked better from a different book. I think I will try and salvage the bean balls sitting in my freezer and try crumbling them into pasta sauce for my son. He’s pretty keen on taste, however, so I may just toss the balls out this time. My dog will likely eat them, however, since she has lately been a little garbage picker at night from my garbage can in the kitchen. However, although some recipes are a miss, I have already tried some incredibly delicious and fabulous recipes from this site and the book, so I’m excited to make the veggie burgers today and also am making the apple chia pudding parfait again. I also tried a yogi juice yesterday and it was delic!

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Laura March 25, 2015 at 9:19 am

I also want to add after I realized the spaghetti squash strands were still crispy and hard, I tried microwaving them with water in a pan for awhile. Didn’t work. Then I dumped the strands into a pan with plenty of water and boiled them and simmered them for another hr. Didn’t work. Clearly this was a case of I fought the spaghetti squashes and the squashes won. So I may be disappointed, but never defeated. I will try another spaghetti squash down the road once the memory of these 2 squash failures fades.

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Angela April 9, 2015 at 11:07 am

Hi Laura,
I’m sorry to hear you had so many struggles with this one! My guess is that since you pureed the bean balls this greatly impacted the flavour. This is why I never puree any veg. burger or ball recipes (texture is also mushy when pureed) – the flavours all blend together instead of being distinct. Hope this helps!
All my best,
Angela

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Marie June 21, 2015 at 9:56 pm

This recipe looks amazing! I have ben looking for a meatless meatball recipe. Have considered using one of your veggie burger recipes and forming them into balls, but this recipe will convince me to try this first!
Question, what would be a nut-less substitute for the walnuts?

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Natalie July 4, 2015 at 2:58 am

Delicious, delicious, delicious, my three year old devoured these! Filling but not heavy. Great for a winter’s night :)

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Allison July 6, 2015 at 11:45 pm

So I just made your meatballs and I must say, I really like them. I am not Vegan but a health nut and full blown meat eater and I find them satisfying.

Definitely making these again but next time I will add Worcestershire sauce and use fresh oregano instead. Also, I am enjoying them plain as a snack but I will add a tomato sauce next time.

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Allison July 6, 2015 at 11:46 pm
Recipe Rating:

Forgot to rate, comment above.

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Peter K. July 27, 2015 at 1:21 pm
Recipe Rating:

Angela, these bean balls had me like YAASS!!

Served them atop wholewheat spaghetti tossed in tomato sauce – such a delicious meal.

Thanks for another outstanding recipe. Sending love from London!

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Gabrielle August 13, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Would aia be able to substitute the oats with buckwheat flour do you think? I can’t eatoats, not even GF ones!

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Linda September 8, 2015 at 1:57 am
Recipe Rating:

Very tasty. They hold together well and are flavorful. I made a small change to create a crispy version. I made smaller balls, and after baking I lightly sauteed them in oil on medium heat. Thank you for the recipe.

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Tammie October 3, 2015 at 8:17 pm
Recipe Rating:

I made this tonight and it was delicious!! This will go in my folder of fav’s.
Here is the marinara sauce I used.
http://www.veganchef.com/ezmarinara.htm

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Cheryl October 5, 2015 at 7:17 pm

Hi -I tried the italian bean balls today at a potluck and I love them! I was wondering if I can double the ingredients to make a double sized batch? Or do I need to stick to the recipe and make 2 single batches?

Your recipes are so great and I can hardly wait for your new book to come out!
All the best,
Cheryl

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Alison Kang October 6, 2015 at 3:32 pm

Can I replace the walnuts with almonds?

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Emily November 4, 2015 at 9:42 pm
Recipe Rating:

Oh. My. Goodness. This recipe is so delicious. I recently bought a super nice food processor and was excited to use it for the first time with this recipe. I went all the way with it and made my own tomato sauce and used spaghetti squash. The combination is incredibly tasty and incredible filling in the best possible way. I’ve been sending pics of the meal to friends and family and they’re all impressed by the beautiful colors. I will definitely be making these lovely little bean balls on a regular basis!

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Courtney December 13, 2015 at 1:27 pm
Recipe Rating:

This is one of my favorite recipes! I just made it this morning for today’s lunch. It takes forever to make the bean balls (took me 50 minutes), but the end result is well worth the wait. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this recipe. Thanks, Angela!!

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Suzeth December 16, 2015 at 10:16 am
Recipe Rating:

OMG! I tried these yesterday and they were absolutely DELISH! Switching to a vegan conscious diet and your lovely recipes have awoken the desire to cook and enjoy cooking for myself and others :)
Thanks!

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Colleen January 16, 2016 at 4:14 pm

I love this recipe! Do you have the nutritional information for the bean balls, exactly as described in your recipe? Thank you so much :)

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Cha February 21, 2016 at 8:09 am

Just discovered it and tried it yesterday evening… Amazing! I will definitely do this again. Thanks !

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Angela Liddon February 22, 2016 at 4:52 pm

Hi Cha, I’m glad it was a hit! :)

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sarah February 29, 2016 at 7:45 pm
Recipe Rating:

AMAZING!! far exceeded my expectations for a veggie version of a meatball- you nailed the texture and the flavors. actually even better than real meatballs :)

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Angela Liddon March 1, 2016 at 11:48 am

Hi Sarah, I’m glad the recipe was a hit! :)

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Jennifer Turnbull March 24, 2016 at 5:10 pm

Made these tonight and they are amazing! I love your recipes but have a little bit of trouble trying to work out the amounts. I live in the UK and all your measurements are in ‘cups’ I have to search google to try and get the right amounts in grams but they aren’t always consistent.

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Michelle April 7, 2016 at 9:01 am
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Hi Angela! These taste awesome!! We love them! I was wondering if I can freeze them? Would you recommend baking them first and then freezing? I want to make a huge batch as they are so good!!! Thanks for your help!

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Angela Liddon April 7, 2016 at 10:35 am

Hi Michelle, I think these should freeze well for sure. I’d recommend you bake them first, then cool completely before freezing. Thaw and then reheat in the oven until warmed throughout. Hope this helps!

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Michelle April 7, 2016 at 4:08 pm
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Thank you for getting back to me! I can’t wait to make a huge batch!! Thanks for all your awesome recipes! Can’t wait for you new book! All the best with your pregnancy!

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LisaRose June 11, 2016 at 10:28 pm
Recipe Rating:

Yay, yay, yay! Just finished making these and I’m not sure they’ll last the weekend (it’s Saturday night…yikes!). Thank you for such an amazing recipe. I don’t even need any type of pasta or sauce.

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Lynn May 11, 2018 at 5:52 am
Recipe Rating:

I made this tonight for my hubby & myself and I want to eat it everyday for the rest of my life!!!! I’ve never eaten or even seen a spaghetti squash before so I had no idea what it was going to taste like but you’ve won me over, I want to have it with everything I make. The bean balls were so delicious & I served it with your beautiful tomato sauce & we were both in heaven. I LOVE all of your recipes, they all turn out exactly how they look in the photos & taste amazing, we pretty much eat exclusively your recipes every meal every day, they’re just that good!! Thank you so much for sharing all the deliciousness.
Lynn from Australia

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Angela (Oh She Glows) May 11, 2018 at 9:15 am

Hey Lynn, Aww thank you so much!! This makes me so happy to hear :) I really appreciate all of your support.

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