Vegetarian Cannellini & Garbanzo Bean Faux Meatballs and Gluten Free Spaghetti



All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

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vromans front

vromans back

Sometimes you just want simple comfort food.  For vegans & vegetarians – this used to be very challenging because so many of those meals are meat and/or dairy-based.  If you add gluten intolerance – things got pretty hairy.  Back in the day, anyway.

But, nowadays, there are vegetarian meats and vegan cheeses & gluten-free pastas & just about any dietary need can be tailored to by just knowing where to shop & how to substitute.  Look at this.


Ronzoni, people!  Making gluten-free pasta.  I got it Ralph’s.  Pretty mainstream.

Recently, a reader (or non-reader, as it seems) felt the need to inform me that vegans do not eat fish – because I used the word vegan in the heading of my Easiest Spicy Thai Coconut Salmon Soup for the Slow Cooker.


If they had bothered to read the post, they would have found that I suggested to my vegan readers that they sub out the salmon (and fish sauce) with extra vegetables.  Sometimes I think it is a waste of breath (or typed words) to suggest to a vegan how to modify a recipe to suit their needs as, I assume, most vegans are already pretty savvy about that.   Any mac & cheese recipe can be made vegan by just using vegan cheese.  Do I have to actually say “or vegan alternative” next to every non-vegan ingredient?  I look up traditional chicken dishes all the time – even though I do not eat chicken – and sub out the chicken with a seafood option or, in many cases, cauliflower (the most adaptable & wonderful veggie!).  I don’t get all hinky if I see chicken in the recipe.  I don’t EAT chicken but I am still allowed to acknowledge the word exists.   Still, I find that putting the words vegetarian or vegan or no carb or gluten-free in the heading of a post can often drive lots of traffic to it.  Why?  Because people are actively hunting for these things.  I’d hate for a vegan to miss my meatball recipe here just because it includes an egg.  I would assume that most vegans have met this hurdle before & have found a way around it – like these products HERE, for example.  Still – it seems lots of folks expressly use keywords like “vegan” in their searches and I’d like to show them some of my ideas – so I often add a parenthetical (vegan) to a heading.  And just so nobody thinks I am picking on vegans – conversely, do I really need to explain that my Chicago-style Veggie Hot Dog on a Gluten-free Cauliflower Tortilla 


could be made with BEEF hot dogs & traditional buns?  Well – criminy!  I hope not – but I bet the words “carnivore’s dream” would bring new eyes to that recipe.

“Hey, Christine.  Vegans don’t eat fish.”

411.  Let me make a note.

Moving on.

I wanted spaghetti & meatballs.  I made it.  With fake spaghetti & fake meatballs.  But – never fear meat eaters.  REAL meatballs could be used, too.

“Hey, Christine.  Cranky much?”


I would like to mention that the gluten-free pasta tasted pretty much like white pasta, especially with the sauce on it but the texture was just a bit more brittle.  I’d compare it to day old pasta that you re-heated.  It doesn’t twirl around your fork very easily (who cares?) and I’m not sure a true al dente can be achieved but if you are a gluten-intolerant carb whore – I don’t think these are major drawbacks.  I recommend this as a very reasonable alternative to wheat pasta.

The meatballs will never fool a carnivore that they are eating Bessie but, for a 25 year-long vegetarian – they do the trick pretty nicely.  But, I don’t think I need to tell anybody who has been vegetarian for very long that there are very few truly convincing meat substitutes.  Still – nobody mistakes diet soda for real soda but that hasn’t hurt Diet Coke much.  You just adapt.  Adapt your expectations.  And broaden your palate.  Use your imagination.

Vegan & the recipe calls for an egg?  Google it.  Here are the suggestions that PETA makes:

There are plenty of egg substitutes available for baking or preparing a dish that calls for eggs. Ener-G Egg Replacer is a reliable egg substitute for use in baking. It is available at health food stores and most grocery stores.

Tofu: Tofu is great for egg substitutions in recipes that call for a lot of eggs, like quiches or custards. To replace one egg in a recipe, purée 1/4 cup soft tofu. It is important to keep in mind that although tofu doesn’t fluff up like eggs, it does create a texture that is perfect for “eggy” dishes.

Tofu is also a great substitute for eggs in eggless egg salad and breakfast scrambles.

In Desserts and Sweet, Baked Goods: Try substituting one banana or 1/4 cup applesauce for each egg called for in a recipe for sweet, baked desserts. These will add some flavor to the recipe, so make sure bananas or apples are compatible with the other flavors in the dessert.

Other Egg Replacement Options

• 1 egg = 2 Tbsp. potato starch
• 1 egg = 1/4 cup mashed potatoes
• 1 egg = 1/4 cup canned pumpkin or squash
• 1 egg = 1/4 cup puréed prunes
• 1 egg = 2 Tbsp. water + 1 Tbsp. oil + 2 tsp. baking powder
• 1 egg = 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed simmered in 3 Tbsp. water
• 1 egg white = 1 Tbsp. plain agar powder dissolved in 1 Tbsp. water, whipped, chilled, and whipped again

Egg Replacement Tips

• If a recipe calls for three or more eggs, it is important to choose a replacer that will perform the same function (i.e., binding or leavening).

• Trying to replicate airy baked goods that call for a lot of eggs, such as angel food cake, can be very difficult. Instead, look for a recipe with a similar taste but fewer eggs, which will be easier to replicate.

• When adding tofu to a recipe as an egg replacer, be sure to purée it first to avoid chunks in the finished product.

• Be sure to use plain tofu, not seasoned or baked, as a replacer.

• Powdered egg replacers cannot be used to create egg recipes such as scrambles or omelets. Tofu is the perfect substitute for eggs in these applications.

• If you want a lighter texture and you’re using fruit purées as an egg substitute, add an extra 1/2 tsp. baking powder. Fruit purées tend to make the final product denser than the original recipe.

• If you’re looking for an egg replacer that binds, try adding 2 to 3 Tbsp. of any of the following for each egg: tomato paste, potato starch, arrowroot powder, whole wheat flour, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, instant potato flakes, or 1/4 cup tofu puréed with 1 Tbsp. flour.

And PETA is just one resource.

Anyway – I digress.  The spaghetti used here can – wait for it…

be replaced with REGULAR pasta or whole wheat pasta or penne or farfalle.  But you knew that.  And the meatball recipe can be adapted to include whatever spices your grandma used to use or ones you see in any traditional meat ball recipe.  Being rigid & literal only works for bakers.  Most other cooking benefits from a looser interpretation & your own imagination.  Try it.  It is part of what makes cooking fun.

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Vegetarian Cannellini & Garbanzo Bean Faux Meatballs and Gluten-Free Spaghetti 

(makes about 30 small meatballs)


Pasta of your choice

Pasta sauce of your choice (my marinara is HERE & my 5-minute arrabiatta is HERE)

1 (15 ounce) can of cannellini beans

1 (15 ounce) can of garbanzo beans

1 onion – quartered

3 jalapenos – seeded (optional)

8 ounces mushrooms

4 garlic cloves

1/2 cup parsley – chopped

1 TBS dry oregano

1 egg (or vegan substitute <wink>)

1/2 cup breadcrumbs (more or less)

S&P to taste (at least 1/2 tsp each)

Garnish – grated cheese (or vegan alternative), chopped parsley and/or chopped basil

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Heat the oven to 350.  Grease a cooking sheet (cooking spray or olive oil).

Drain & rinse the two cans of beans.  Pulse in a food processor until mostly broken up.  Do not puree them.  Put them in a large mixing bowl & set aside.

Pulse the onion, jalapenos & garlic until chopped pretty fine.  Add to beans.

Pulse the mushrooms until chopped pretty fine.  Add to beans.

Add parsley, oregano, egg and breadcrumbs & mix it all up.  If it is too wet, add more breadcrumbs.  Add S&P.

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Create little meatballs (a bit smaller than a golf ball) in your palms & place on the cooking sheet.  I think I got about 32 meatballs this size.

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Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes & then carefully turn them & cook another 15-20 minutes.

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Heat your sauce.  Maybe heat some faux meatballs in there but be careful they do not fall apart.  Make your pasta.  Assemble.  Garnish.  Pour wine.  Devour food.  Scream out “VEGANS DO NOT EAT FISH!”  Feel self-righteous.

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