March 28, 2011

Spaghetti-Nos With Mini Lentil Meatballs

by IsaChandra

Serves 8 to 10

Total time: 1 hour || Active time: 1 hour (Maybe longer the first time you make it)

My palate has a great memory. If it’s something like my mom’s birthday or paying rent I’m guaranteed to forget, but a slice of pizza I had during the Clinton administration will linger forever. And so it is with Spaghetti-os and our sordid history. Children, cover your eyes, this recipe will reveal quite a few things:

I don’t mind a couple of short cut ingredients when they get the job done.
I’m not above ordering food on the internet.
I was a juvenile delinquent.
I should have a job at the national vegan council for naming things.

As a 14 year old goth in the age before cellphones, my friends and I would do that thing of staying up all night being idiots, hanging out on the beach or at the park or whatever (I swear it was mostly innocent.) Since we told our moms we were sleeping at each other’s houses, we couldn’t really go home until it was light out.  So we’d go the corner store and pop a couple of Spaghetti-O cans for breakfast, thanks to that easy pull-off lid. We’d pretty much sit on the street, black eyeliner streaming down our faces, ripped fishnets ripping even more, getting Spaghetti-o sauce all over our Salvation Army velvet dresses while we waited for the sun to rise. And, seriously, for shame, those Spaghetti-Os were good.

Sort of mushy rings of pasta swimming in a sweet, cheesy sauce tomato sauce. And don’t forget the meatballs! Chewy orbs that made you want to keep biting into them, even though you didn’t exactly know why – it could have been voodoo or MSG. I had two basic strategies for extending their little meatball lives – slicing them in half or saving them for the end. You totally won if your last bite was a meatball.

Well, sometimes my palate hits me with a strange craving, and I don’t know if Sisters Of Mercy popped up on VH1 classics or what, but I had a nagging for vegan Spaghetti-os. The first order of business was to see if the O-shaped pasta could be found, which brought me to the Wikipedia list of pastas and eventually to Amazon where I purchased three bags of Anellini.

I thought that the meatballs would work well with either tempeh or lentils (of course I had to ask Twitter first), but since I was out of tempeh, that answered that. And because I wanted mushy, but not TOO mushy, I added a little bit of vital wheat gluten. To make them addictive, some seasoned breadcrumbs and, since it’s like catnip for vegans, a touch of nutritional yeast.

The sauce was made velvety and cheesy with some cashews and nutritional yeast, but not too much. Instead of high fructose corn syrup, a bit of brown sugar caramelized with the onions gives the sauce a satisfying sweetness and cuts the bitterness of canned tomatoes. I also used crushed tomatoes with basil, for another dimension of sweetness.

The end result hit all the right notes for me. The lentils ended up being the perfect choice for the chewy texture I wanted and their naturally meaty made for excellent meatballs. I really think kids of all ages will dig this. What kid won’t want to eat something called Spaghetti-Nos? And not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’m pretty sure they taste better than their inspiration. Maybe I didn’t run outside and sit on the sidewalk to eat them, but I did wear a lot of black eyeshadow that evening. Coincidence?

Recipe notes:

~If you can’t find seasoned store bought breadcrumbs for the meatballs, add a pinch each of basil, oregano and thyme. Homemade bread crumbs won’t work as well (too soft), but cracker crumbs might fare a bit better if you must.

~If you can’t find crushed tomatoes with basil, just use a pinch or two of dried basil.

~If you don’t have a food processor, you can still get the job done (although you’ll need some sort of blender for the sauce.) Just get the onion grated and mash the lentils into a puree. If you warm them up a bit first they’ll mush up a lot easier.

~To soak cashews, just submerge them in water for at least an hour and up to overnight. This softens them up and enables them to get really creamy.

~The recipe makes a lot! Feel free to halve it. And if you’re short on time, just make the pasta or make the meatballs with regular sauce on regular pasta. It’s fun to do the whole shebang, but all of the elements would be good solo players as well.

~Lastly, while it isn’t difficult, this recipe does use quite a few pots and pans, so consider yourself warned! For time management purposes, start the sauce first and once it’s simmering, begin the meatballs. That should get everything done within an hour.

For the Cheesy Tomato Sauce:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 24 oz. cans crushed tomato with basil
1/4 cup cashews, soaked (see note)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

For the Mini Meatballs:
1 clove garlic
1 small onion, peeled (tangerine sized or equivalent)
1 1/2 cups cooked green or brown lentils, rinsed, drained (a 15 oz can is fine)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten flour
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup seasoned store-bought breadcrumbs

For everything else:
1 lb anellini pasta (or small pasta of your choice)
Olive oil for pan frying

To make the sauce:
Preheat a 4 quart pot over medium heat. Sautee onions in olive oil with a pinch of salt until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic about a minute more, then mix in the black pepper, oregano, salt and brown sugar. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the sugar is melted. Add the tomato sauce, cashews and nutritional yeast, cover and cook for about 20 minutes.

Now puree the sauce until smooth. It’s easiest to use an immersion blender. You can also use a blender or food processor, blending in batches. Once it’s smooth, keep warm in the pot until ready to use.

To make the mini meatballs:
We’re going to use the food processor fit with a metal S blade for most of the work here, so it should come together pretty quickly. First toss in the garlic and pulse until finely chopped. Now add the onion and pulse until minced. You don’t want any big pieces or they will ruin the texture of the meatball.

With a plastic spatula, transfer the onion/garlic mixture to a mixing bowl and set aside. It’s okay if some remnants are left, just try to get most of it.

Now in the food processor, pulse the lentils, nutritional yeast, wheat gluten, soy sauce, tomato paste, olive oil and water. Once everything gets mixed well, puree them until totally smooth, scraping down the sides to make sure you get everything.

Combine this mixture with the onion mixture and add in the breadcrumbs. Mix really well with your hands for about 2 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Roll the meatballs into cherry sized balls, I got 32 meatballs out of this. This goes very fast if you keep your hands clean and dry (I was averaging one meat ball every 10 seconds.) Preheat a large skillet over medium heat and pour in a thin layer of olive oil. You don’t want to crowd the pan, so pan fry in two batches. You should be able to tilt the pan and have all the meatballs roll around and get coated in oil, cooking until browned (no more than 5 minutes.)

Transfer first batch to a baking pan, cook the second batch, and transfer all meatballs to the baking pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, shaking the pan every once in awhile to toss the balls so that they cook evenly.

To assemble:
Boil the pasta while the meatballs are cooking. Drain pasta, and add to the sauce. When meatballs are ready, add them to the sauce as well. Toss carefully with a wooden spoon, being careful not to break the meatballs. Serve!



  • March 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm: naomi

    Absolutely brilliant. Seriously. This is going on the “to make” list. :D

  • March 28, 2011 at 6:42 pm: Suz

    I love you so much for sharing this! I can’t wait to make these for my son.

  • March 28, 2011 at 6:52 pm: Crystal/paprikapapaya

    Isa, I gots mad love for you. This is getting in my belly SOON.

  • March 28, 2011 at 6:58 pm: ZHollows

    I cannot wait to make this. I have been craving vegan Spaghetti Os for 15 years. THANK YOU!

  • March 28, 2011 at 7:35 pm: Jen

    This looks so super good, and the miniballz are too cute for words! What brand of breadcrumbs did you use? I can never find vegan ones (except for that one brand that are huge and chunky). Do you have to order them from one of the online vegan shoppes?

    • March 28, 2011 at 8:15 pm: IsaChandra

      Whole Foods brand breadcrumbs are awesome. I’ve found other vegan ones and I can’t recall the brands, but you’re right, it can be tough. You know what also works really well? If you can find vegan stuffing mix. It turns into magic in the food processor. I believe Pepperidge Farm makes one.

  • March 28, 2011 at 7:46 pm: Sherene

    Can’t wait to try this!!!!! Thanks so much for your creative culinary expertise!!!

  • March 28, 2011 at 9:02 pm: Rebekah

    LOL @ catnip for vegans! Too true.

  • March 28, 2011 at 9:44 pm: Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day

    I think i love you.

  • March 28, 2011 at 9:45 pm: Bianca- Vegan Crunk

    Yep, that catnip for vegans line made me spew water all over my keyboard. That’s so true! My cats also like nooch….so it may also be like catnip for cats. I’m soooo making this btw. I lived on cold cans of Spaghetti-O’s in college,

  • March 28, 2011 at 11:21 pm: A.Cook

    You are brilliant! If I weren’t too lazy to go pick up some ingredients right now, I’d make it tonight.

    Also, laughed out loud at “catnip for vegans.” So glad to know it’s not just me!

  • March 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm: Heidi

    This sounds so good. Funnily enough, I have tempeh on hand rather than lentils–would you imagine I could sub using the same method?

    • March 29, 2011 at 1:17 am: IsaChandra

      Hmmm. I would steam the tempeh first and then grate it. The moisture content will be different so you might have to add a bit more water to make everything hold together. Let me know how it goes!

  • March 29, 2011 at 12:08 am: Jessie

    I just made the lentil meatballs (had everything on hand!) without a food processor and they were still dynamite! I should have simmered my lentils longer so they would fall apart more, but even with some chunky pieces they have great texture. I made my own sauce recipe, but added nooch while it was simmering to get a bit of cheesy flavor going on.

    So looking forward to assembling the whole dish for dinner!

  • March 29, 2011 at 12:21 am: Mama Pea

    You did NOT. This is awesome.

  • March 29, 2011 at 4:01 am: megs

    YOM. Very excited to try this soon! I’ve got Mac ‘n’ Shews on the plan for tomorrow…

  • March 29, 2011 at 4:19 am: Kris

    Anybody have any replacement suggestions for the vital wheat gluten? My wife is vegan and gluten intolorant

    • March 29, 2011 at 5:08 am: IsaChandra

      I would try some extra GF breadcrumbs. It will be a little mushier but still good, I think.

  • March 29, 2011 at 4:41 am: Kim

    yay. these look exciting. i also love the name!

  • March 29, 2011 at 6:42 am: Daniel

    Instead of meatballs why not call them neatballs?

  • March 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm: VegWhoHatesTofu

    I’ve never had spaghetti Os but these look adorable and yummy! I bet my 2 year old will love this… and maybe me too :)

  • March 29, 2011 at 4:23 pm: amanda

    O.M.G. I LOVE spaghetti-o’s and those awful canned raviolis too. I think they are so good because they are just so awful for you. Will have to try this…very very soon

  • March 29, 2011 at 4:25 pm: amanda

    Oh, and the little baby that is in my belly thanks you in advance for this recipe. He/she would never have been able to experience spaghetti-o’s were it not for this recipe!!!

  • March 29, 2011 at 6:02 pm: MissNiss

    Thank you SO much for this incredible recipe. I tried it out last night, and it was SO good. Maybe too good…I ate almost all of it in one sitting. I forgot how much I loved Zoodles back in the day, and this really fixes that craving. Two thumbs up!

  • March 29, 2011 at 7:35 pm: Charissa

    Vegan meatballs! That’s awesome…thanks for making a healthy version…I have to agree with Amanda…haha, I like the canned versions too. Bad me.

  • March 30, 2011 at 3:21 am: spaghett!

    i was too lazy to make meatballs so i just used lentils by themselves. still awesome! the sauce was delicious!!

  • March 30, 2011 at 3:35 am: dee

    Can I use panko bread crumbs and italian seasoning mixed together for the seasoned bread crumbs?

    • March 30, 2011 at 3:46 am: IsaChandra

      Yes but they are too course as is, pulse them into finer crumbs first.

  • March 30, 2011 at 5:06 am: Bethany

    Hate to say this, but a sub for lentils? I have IBS and I am scared of beans sometimes. Though, this recipe might make me try lentils for the first time!

  • March 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm: Heather

    I made this yesterday…it is sooooo good! Is there nutritional info available on this recipe?

  • March 30, 2011 at 5:02 pm: sara

    this looks so good. i’m beginning to feel left out of recent vegan culinary movements by being allergic to nuts, though. :(

  • March 30, 2011 at 6:11 pm: amanda

    @Heather – you can enter all the ingredients on livestrong.com and it will give you nutritional info.

  • March 30, 2011 at 6:24 pm: Heather

    Thanks Amanda!! :)

  • March 30, 2011 at 8:54 pm: Drake

    I related a little too much to this post. :)

  • March 31, 2011 at 2:06 am: Allison Dubya

    OMG you were reading my mind. I was JUST asking my teacher’s aide the other day if she thought spaghettios (the non-meatball kind, obviously) and googled it because I had an uber-craving for them out of the blue. I MUST try this! :-)

  • March 31, 2011 at 2:08 am: Allison Dubya

    * meant to say “I was JUST asking my teacher’s aide the other day if she thought spaghettios (the non-meatball kind, obviously) were vegan and googled it…” Ooops, I have to remember to edit….

  • April 1, 2011 at 8:29 pm: Gabriela

    I love all your recipes; you really make the whole vegan thing accessible and fun. As for that job in the vegan council of naming things, it should totally be yours, I agree.

  • April 1, 2011 at 11:17 pm: Samantha

    We’re making this tonight…for the second time. Tonight we’re doing a double batch. Thank you so much, we really needed comfort food this week. This really hit the spot!

    • April 3, 2011 at 5:25 am: IsaChandra

      Whoa you guys are serious, twice in a week!

  • April 2, 2011 at 9:37 pm: erinH

    These meatballs rule! We used them to make meatball sandwiches. SO GOOD! Thanks for the great recipe :)

  • April 2, 2011 at 10:52 pm: LeslieW

    This is the bomb-diggety. Love it! Thanks so much!

  • April 3, 2011 at 6:29 pm: Libbie

    This is sooooo good!! I just made it today and I am still enjoying the batch! I didn’t have any of the recommended pasta so I took whole wheat spaghetti noodles and broke them into small pieces, worked out well although I wish it had that authentic look that the round does.

    Either way–AMAZING! Definitely going into my recipe file.

  • April 4, 2011 at 5:54 pm: Orest

    I made it with Alphabet pasta for that Alpha-getti feel. Awesome! The flavour really takes me back and it made a huge batch. I’ll be eating it for a week.
    Thanks for putting this recipe together, Isa. I think I may be in love with you…. :)

  • April 4, 2011 at 6:11 pm: AmandaM

    Oh my goodness. I grew up on chef boyardee. Hadn’t occurred to me to miss it but this recipe is so good! Made it last night, eating it now for lunch and it is crazy how much it tastes like the stuff from the can! And I mean that in the best possible way. Delicious.

    • April 4, 2011 at 10:55 pm: IsaChandra

      Yeah, you don’t *always* wanna be told that your food came from a can, but in this case it’s ok!

  • April 5, 2011 at 1:25 am: GillianNZ

    well i made this beautiful dish, fan-freekin’-tastic, brought the leftovers to work today and got the usual comments. 10 seconds after the taste challenge the nay-sayers wanted more. HA! <3

  • April 5, 2011 at 7:16 pm: darjeeling

    my whole family loved this, thanks! I was surprised at the huge output given that a pound of pasta normally doesn’t take us that far but this is super-saucy. YUM.

  • April 6, 2011 at 1:03 pm: kfly

    You must have so much fun in the kitchen

  • April 6, 2011 at 1:08 pm: Kelly

    I made this tonight! ever since it was posted I had it on the “to make” list. My favorite part was the little noodles and the sauce together. Very reminiscent of what my mom would put into a thermos and give me to bring for lunch in 1st grade. I used ditalini, so they were like cylinders more than Os but still awesome. The meatballs were awesome. I think I made them a little smaller, I was aiming to get them the size of the actual canned meatballs in spaghettios, so I got about 100 meatballs :). it was a good time nonetheless.. mini meatballs are way cute. Thanks for the great idea!!

  • April 6, 2011 at 9:46 pm: Jessica

    I find the “ethnic” food aisle is a good place to find accidentally vegan stuff, especially the Kosher foods. I buy Kosher breadcrumbs at the supermarket since all their regular breadcrumbs have dairy. Even the “gourmet” stuff!

    Trader Joe’s breadcrumbs are vegan too. I stock up on them (and their panko breadcrumbs) when they’re in stock!

  • April 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm: Lauren

    I tried making lentil meatballs just the other day and they came out waaaay too mushy. I see you add vital wheat gluten to this recipe, I’m on a gluten-free diet and I’m wondering if there is an acceptable substitute or should I omit it all together? (I’ll be substituting the pasta and breadcrumbs with GF options). Thanks!!

    • April 7, 2011 at 3:20 pm: IsaChandra

      I would just add extra GF breadcrumbs.

  • April 8, 2011 at 7:36 am: GillianNZ

    recipe online 10 days and now requested at at a meat-eaters ‘family ‘do’ in dairy heaven New Zealand (that’s how we get 50% of our overseas $$). SCORE!

  • April 8, 2011 at 5:51 pm: Marta

    Do you think I could use red lentils in this recipe?

    • April 8, 2011 at 6:57 pm: IsaChandra

      Nope, too mushy.

  • April 8, 2011 at 8:13 pm: sneakers

    Meatballs came out a little mushy for me, but my onion was super juicy so I’m wondering if that was the problem. Think I would add more breadcrumb next time if I found my onions that juicy again. However, the flavour is kick ass and I will use the meatballs for other applications, too. Amazing!

  • April 9, 2011 at 11:22 am: Sam (Quantum Vegan)

    This is so adorable! I wish there were young kids in my family so I could invite them over and make a big batch to share. XD I may have to round up some friends of the family instead!

  • April 9, 2011 at 7:25 pm: miki

    I just got the batches of meat balls out of the oven and I am almost sure they won’t make it to the sauce…the meat balls are sooooo yummy I can’t (and my hubby can’t) help munching them!

  • April 11, 2011 at 1:29 am: Krisan Cieszkiewicz

    I halved the recipe and wish I hadn’t!!! It’s perfect.

  • April 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm: claire_cigar

    if you can find them (or order them), Heinz Spaghetti Hoops are vegan and once i added a tbsp or so of ny to it they were a dead on match for o’s. they’re british and i found them in the ‘world’ section of a meijers grocery store in southeast michigan. of course you’d still have to make your own meatballs to add and they probably arent as healthy as this recipe but they were fantastic and i was really excited to eat spaghetti o’s again!

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Heinz-Spaghetti-Hoops-Tomato-Sauce/dp/B004TEVM1Y

  • April 13, 2011 at 10:09 pm: Katie

    don’t know whether anyone has already said this, but i made these tonight and found it helpful to dust the mini meatballs with a bit of flour. the first batch stuck to the pan a bit, but the flour helped. just saying!

  • April 13, 2011 at 10:10 pm: katie

    i should also add, though I KNOW this has already been said, the recipe is amazing.

  • April 15, 2011 at 3:50 am: paytizzy

    This is so good! I made it last night and could not stop eating it.

  • April 17, 2011 at 9:52 am: jackie

    made these are they were amazing! will def use the meatball recipe again for other meals. thank you!

  • April 17, 2011 at 9:26 pm: Trish

    As usual Isa, you are my dairy-free goddess! We’re not strictly vegan (though I wouldn’t call us carnivores, either) but your recipes are always my go-to for my dairy-allergic 7 year-old. It started with the cupcakes (because it would suck to be known as the kid that brought in the crappy birthday cupcakes), then the cookies (I made 25 dozen as wedding favors – yes, 25 dozen in July). Now he can finally taste spaghetti-o’s! The food that sustained all children of working mothers back in our day.

  • April 18, 2011 at 1:21 am: Corey

    I had a hard time having them make it from the oven to the pasta. So good. Also, do you think they freeze well? I think they would be fantastic defrosted in homemade pasta sauce…

  • April 19, 2011 at 9:53 pm: Keri

    Testing out this bad boy tonight! Can’t wait, I am always tempted to buy the ones at Whole Foods for my daughter (noodle obsessed) but the damn CHEESE in there has to be the worst quality cheese in the universe.

  • April 20, 2011 at 11:17 pm: RM

    Seriously. Dude. This makes me wish I celebrated 4/20 so that I’d have an excuse to eat the whole freaking pot. The excuse will have to be HOLY COW THESE ARE INCREDIBLE NOMNOM.

  • April 21, 2011 at 6:47 pm: Nisi

    I made this for some friends and it went over amazing – will be bringing some to work for a potluck next week.

    Also, though a bit intensive with the number of pans and pots, it was a very easy recipe to put together, and nearly impossible to screw up!

  • April 21, 2011 at 10:55 pm: Sinny

    My meatballs came out a bit too mushy but I cooked them for about 15 minutes longer and they were fine. Reading the recipe back, I forgot to knead the mixture for two minutes so the gluten probably didn’t have much chance to do its thang. They tasted gooooood, though, and the sauce is possibly one of my new favourite pasta sauces. :)

    Thanks, Isa!

  • April 23, 2011 at 3:22 pm: very worried

    Hang on, vegans don’t eat meat, dairy, etc., but they do eat babies?!?

    Apparantly, that’s what “amanda” did just before posting here on March 29, 2011 at 4:25 pm. “…the little baby that is in my belly….”

  • April 23, 2011 at 11:22 pm: Stacie

    just made it… the “meatballs” are fantastic!!!! i’d like to add a bit more heat to the sauce, but overall this was great!!!!:)

  • April 24, 2011 at 6:39 pm: Karen

    HOLY MOLY! I could easily hate you for your sheer genius-ness in the kitchen but I can’t since every recipe that I have made from your books is AMAZING. I decided this would be my Easter dinner (all my family members are carnivores) I almost ate the whole pot after taking a small taste. My niece and nephew were hopping up and down with full satisfied tummies. Thank you doesn’t seem enough for some of us “new” vegans. I bow to your wow!

    • April 25, 2011 at 12:02 am: IsaChandra

      Wow, thank you!

  • April 24, 2011 at 9:58 pm: Adrienne

    I made this today (for our Easter dinner!) and it was great! I couldn’t get the cashews to break down with my immersion blender so I pureed the sauce in my Vita-Mix – it came out perfectly smooth and (bonus!) it took on that strange orangey-red color of the real thing! I have a mean anal-retentive streak so I portioned the meatballs with my small Pampered Chef scoop (about 1T) – I ended up with 33 perfect pieces. This is a make-again recipe, although I wouldn’t tackle it on a weeknight – too many dishes. Thank you for this wonderful throw-back to our long-ago childhoods!

    • April 25, 2011 at 12:02 am: IsaChandra

      Great! I’m so happy this has been an Easter hit!

  • April 26, 2011 at 8:53 pm: Sheridan

    Simply AMAZING!!! I can’t even remember the last time I had a can of Spaghetti-O’s, but all kinds of great childhood memories flooded my tastebuds when we made these! They are awesome, awesome, awesome and taste very authentic! I’ve only been vegan for a few months now and I am having a great time working my way through your recipes! Thank you so much for sharing this!

  • April 27, 2011 at 12:39 pm: LizTheWiz

    I’ve been craving vegan spaghetti os forever! I have never had the meatballs, though, so I might just make plain ol spaghetti-nos :) Thanks!!!

  • April 28, 2011 at 7:47 pm: Jennan

    Firstly: this recipe is delicious in the extreme, and thank you! I absolutely loved making and eating it. I used to eat (and love) spaghetti-o’s as a kid (they’re pretty much the mainstay of children to two working parents). Eating them again was equal parts tasty and nostalgic.

    However, I did have a bit of a problem with the lentil meatballs: mine pretty much fell apart into crumbles during the frying stage. Instead of being able to roll around, they just stuck squarely to the pan and efforts to shift them tore them apart. Even once I got them in the baking pan they stuck straight to it and I had to manually turn them. Since no one else is having this problem, I’m sure it’s my frying technique that is to blame or an ingredient ratio that I needed to adjust – does anyone have any suggestions? I’ll definitely try the flour dusting recommended by an earlier poster next time, but is it possible to stick these straight in the oven?

    By the way, this didn’t affect the seriously delicious taste, and myself + company were in love with the crumbles. I definitely plan on using that recipe for all sorts of other applications.

    • April 28, 2011 at 8:45 pm: IsaChandra

      I wouldn’t just stick them in the oven. I mean, it would be okay, but they really benefit from a quick pan fry. Can I ask what material your spatula and pan were made out of?

  • April 29, 2011 at 7:20 pm: Renita

    I also had problems with the meatballs in my test batch. I did a test batch because the mixture seemed kind of wet. I cooked my own lentils and found them to be pretty wet when I was pureeing them. I added more bread crumbs and more vital wheat gluten until the consistency felt a lot like real meat would feel. If you haven’t felt real meat in a while sorry…my husband is a die hard carnivore. anyhow…they fried up beautifully, crusty on the outside from browning but still as soft as I remember the original meatballs from the can. and yes…my brother and I ate a lot of that stuff growing up. Thanks Isa.

  • May 1, 2011 at 6:00 am: Zooey

    I made these today for my dining coop and they were awesome. My friend who really likes meat and who was disappointed that we weren’t having real meatballs went back for thirds. Thanks!

  • May 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm: Jennan

    The pan was stainless steel and I used a metal turner – cast iron instead, maybe?

    • May 1, 2011 at 4:43 pm: IsaChandra

      Yes, stainless steel really doesn’t like panfrying moist things like these meatballs.

  • May 4, 2011 at 11:37 pm: laura

    lol – loved story time! and bookmarked the “Nos” with my cookmarked.com account!

  • May 5, 2011 at 11:58 pm: Patricia Conte

    As a vegetarian, one thing I miss more than anything is my mom’s meatballs! I know my mom’s meatballs & Spaghetti-Os aren’t a good comparison but any mention of the word “meatballs” gets me hungry! Can’t wait to try this!
    Your entry had me laughing! We must be close in age : )

  • May 11, 2011 at 8:30 pm: Dee

    So good! I’m on batch 4 of the lentil balls. This time I used panko breadcrumbs and they were super – and moister too.

    I found it easier to pulse the lentils alone in my sadly underpowered 2 cup chopper and then add in the rest of the ingredients.

  • May 16, 2011 at 11:06 pm: Bonnie

    These are by far the best vegan meatballs i have ever made!!! I made the meatballs alone for a pasta dish I was doing. i made them into the standard size meatball, I got about 10 meatballs. Not only did they taste good and stay firm but they look exactly like the meatballs I used to eat as a kid. This is going to be my new go-to meatball recipe. I have been searching for this type of recipe for a few years now. Thanks Isa for all that you do!

  • May 17, 2011 at 10:02 pm: Audrey

    As a couple of folks above mentioned, I may not have kneaded the lentil mix for long enough – my meatballs were not as solid as I had hoped. However, I had always preferred the meat sauce to sauce with meatballs so we improvised, smashed our lentil balls and enjoyed a very thick sauce. Lovely.

  • May 24, 2011 at 2:05 am: Mari

    I just made the lentil balls since I already had some home made sauce I wanted to use. I thought these were the best meatball substitute I’ve tried so far. The only thing I think I’ll do a little differently next time is add at least another garlic clove (love garlic!) and maybe a bit of dried oregano. The seasoned crumbs I used were lacking a bit of flavor. All in all though, I can’t wait to make these again.

  • May 24, 2011 at 4:53 am: Elizabeth

    As a new vegan I just discovered your blog and absolutely love it! Former 14 year old goth! YES!

  • June 16, 2011 at 2:49 pm: Frollein

    I also had the problems with the too mushy meatballs, i solved it by adding simply a handful of UNCOOKEd yellow lentils, and a tiny bit of flour. It turned out extremely nice, as the raw lentils will moisten during the baking time. AND they mke the meatballs somewhat more “al dente” :)

  • June 18, 2011 at 6:36 pm: Lyndon Haselhuhn

    Awesome! Thanks..

  • June 19, 2011 at 2:04 am: dmarie

    Although this didn’t taste like Spaghetti-O’s to me, it was pretty good. I think the sauce was good/fine before the cashews. I too ended up with meatballs that fried just fine, but then turned to crumbles (after oven) mixed in. I did find that my meatballs stuck at first b/c the pan was too hot. Husband said it tastes more like Beefaroni.

  • June 26, 2011 at 9:40 pm: Jessica

    Of course this taste amazing, but my meatballs were kind of ‘soft’ … not really firm. I used dried lentil that I cooked. What should I do next time to have firmer meatballs??

  • July 30, 2011 at 7:37 pm: Mack the Spork

    I had a moment of pure bliss last night – I was grumpy, wanted dinner, and remembered I had a container of these in the freezer. YUM!
    I’m going to make a big batch of the sauce and freeze in portions for future de-grumpifying.

  • August 3, 2011 at 3:25 am: little lily

    So very good. Thank you Isa, for another great recipe. Glad I didn’t half it, I would be sad if we didn’t have plenty of leftovers. I used whole wheat tiny elbow pasta whole foods brand. Perfect!

  • August 17, 2011 at 6:41 am: Nina B.

    Will definitely make again, with some tweaking- the meatballs survived the pan fry stage, emerged beautifully intact, firm and delicious after the baking. I threw them into the sauce for 5 minutes to warm through and they completely disintegrated-not into a bolognese like texture, more like the paste we used in first grade for our art projects. The taste was amazing, tho. Will also soak cashews for more than 1 hour, as this wasn’t enough to enable a thoroughly smooth blending.

  • August 18, 2011 at 3:59 pm: Katie

    If preschoolers were allowed to vote for president, I think you’d have a couple of write-in votes after today! My 4 and 5 year old sons wanted me to make this recipe for lunch today, minus the meatballs (5 year old is grossed out by even fake meats). They LOVED them and I love that you made it possible for them to have junk food without the junk!

  • September 9, 2011 at 1:01 am: Carly

    Is there anyway to make this gluten-free – the lentil meatballs that is? Is there something I could replace the vita wheat gluten flour with? I really want to make this! THANKS!

  • September 12, 2011 at 10:05 pm: Mel

    Oh my goodness! This pasta and these lentil balls are everything to me! They are soooo good and remind me of my youth. Everything worked out perfectly. I used my vitamix for all of the chopping and pureeing because I don’t have a food processor. The lentil balls held together perfectly. I’m in awe! These were so easy!

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I just ordered your cookbook.

    • September 13, 2011 at 1:27 am: IsaChandra

      Well that is a glowing review if ever there was one! Thank you!!!

  • October 8, 2011 at 4:17 pm: Fenice

    This is so good! I was asked (begged) to put this in “regular rotation”. The lentil meatballs are incredible. Had to stop myself from popping them into my mouth like some kind of savoury snack. We had this with crispy romaine leaves tossed with the AFR Green Goddess dressing and it was a fabulous combination. Mmmmmm.

  • November 12, 2011 at 3:19 am: Hapax Legomenon

    forum.theppk.com/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=6421&p=174091#p174091
    *cough*

  • November 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm: Liz

    The sauce was cheesy perfection and the lentil balls were easy to make and held together. In the words of my daughter, “Hey, these meatballs [she means vegan meatballs] don’t fall apart like your other ones always do! They’re good!” And my husband loved that the creaminess of the sauce came from the cashews. Quote: “that’s wild!”

  • November 26, 2011 at 8:31 pm: Morgan

    I’m making these right now! the sauce is amazing, but my neatballs are still kinda mushy. I’m letting them cook a little longer in hopes that they’ll firm up a little. Overall AMAZING, and delicious. stoked to make this reguarly.

  • December 17, 2011 at 6:55 pm: pentabarf

    I made just the meatballs with some couscous salad on the side, it was delicious! I’d love to see what couscous recipes you could come up with, by the way. :)

  • January 1, 2012 at 7:40 am: Corey

    what can i substitute the cashews with? i have a tree nut allergy.

  • January 3, 2012 at 7:51 pm: Colleen

    The lentil “Meat”balls were delicious even my non-vegan boyfriend really liked them, I froze them and ate them for a bunch of meals!!!

  • January 7, 2012 at 4:55 am: Andrea

    Delicious! Can’t get enough of these. My kids love them. Had to make them twice, used barbeque sauce the second time. Definitely a weekly menu item. http://crawford.cc/wordpress/2012/01/pasta-with-lentil-meatballs/ , http://crawford.cc/wordpress/2012/01/vegetarian-barbeque-meatballs/

  • January 10, 2012 at 3:15 am: Ali

    these neatballs are absolutely perfect… WAY better than any freezer neatball i ever had! i added 3 more Tbsp of wheat gluten and about 1/4 c more breadcrumb to get them to hold together and the texture is spot on. thank you thank you thank you!!!

  • January 29, 2012 at 4:32 am: Susan Kelley

    I just made and enjoyed this (sans meatballs) but the sauce was too sweet for me and not salty enough. Next time I think I’ll use just one tablespoon of brown sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.

    You can also get more of the “canned” flavor by adding a teaspoon each of onion & garlic powder.

    Thank you for sharing this, Isa!

  • February 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm: alyce

    oh, snap. i am so excited about this. i am exactly the same way, in that i get these nostalgic cravings for less than healthy consumables- and one of the biggest ones as a vegan has been meatball spaghettio’s! odd, i know it. but this is bananas, i am so excited to make these.

  • February 25, 2012 at 5:23 pm: Two Ladies and a Ladle

    I made these lentil meatballs with spaghetti squash and roasted veggies and then blogged about it a few weeks ago. My husband and I agree that this was the best recipe we’ve blogged about this year. So delicious! Thanks for the great recipe.

    http://www.twoladiesandaladle.blogspot.com/2012/01/alinas-spaghetti-squash-with-roasted.html

  • March 22, 2012 at 2:12 am: Melissa

    My husband and I had this for dinner last night. I used rotini, which holds sauce better than anellini. I made two batches of the lentil-balls. The first batch was made following the above directions. For the second batch, I chose to skip the pan-fry step and placed the balls directly in the oven. I cooked them for about 9 minutes, turned them over, and cooked for 9 more minutes. I finished the cooking process by broiling the balls for 2 minutes. The second batch had the same firmness of the first batch, saved me from dirtying another dish, and had better shape and coloring than the first batch. This recipe is definitely making it into the monthly dinner rotation.

  • April 8, 2012 at 7:40 am: Chantal

    This recipe looks great! I’ll have to use pureed pumpkin since I’m terribly allergic to tomatoes, but everything else sounds delicious!

  • April 21, 2012 at 8:57 pm: Shelly

    This is probably the most awesome recipe for “meat”balls ever. Thank you! I’ve been making them with my own sauce, and they always come out so delicious. This was my attempt: http://whathappenedtothekitchen.blogspot.pt/2012/04/lentil-meatballs.html

  • May 2, 2012 at 11:43 am: Monique

    I have never had spaghetti o’s before (I did have the canned alphabet spaghetti)… growing up vegetarian… But I had been looking at this recipe for weeks… the picture looked great. Well, I just made these last night. It was super yummy! My husband said the meatballs tasted a little like chopped liver. Really? He has been vegetarian for 20 years so he must have forgotten what liver tastes like : ) He loved it and took the left overs to work. My onion mixture was also a bit runny and the meatball “dough” was very moist. But I didn’t have much trouble cooking them in a stainless steel pan, but I did use more oil than I should have. I just put them on paper towel to blot the oil off before putting them in the oven. Also, I think I counted out 50 meatballs so mine must have been more like “grape tomato” size rather than “cherry tomato” size. I wouldn’t change a thing in this recipe! I have 10 mo twins, so I can’t say that I will make the meatballs every time… but very very doable and the results are amazing!!

  • May 25, 2012 at 3:45 am: Beth

    Awesome! I just wanna know….can I can it? :)

  • June 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm: Amie

    These were AWESOME! *-*
    I love you so much for sharing all those recipes! <3

  • July 8, 2012 at 9:05 pm: Stephanie

    Had these lentil balls tonight but with the marinara sauce from Veganomicon and spaghetti… YUMYUM!! It was so good, my fav ‘meat’balls so far! I had enough for about 3 people, and have the worst food baby ever now. Isa is my food God, she never lets me down!!

  • August 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm: RobinM

    I usually use your recipe for beanballs when I want a sub for a meatball, but today I was looking for something different. As I was making hot meatball subs for the guys, I wanted something similar but meatless for myself! I made your sauce (hey, what they don’t know didn’t hurt them–they loved the sauce on their sammies! LOL) and I made the lentil balls–but with a couple of changes. I also must make food gluten free–vital wheat gluten and regular breadcrumbs weren’t going to fly. So what’s a girl to do? I added gluten free oat bran in place of both (I hadn’t baked GF bread because of the heat and was out of it)! Obviously I lost a bit in the texture you were going for in this recipe, but they held together well and tasted great! Also, I didn’t have cashews so I subbed raw pine nuts, which I totally love. I will definitely make these again–maybe I will actually make the spagetti too!! LOL

  • August 30, 2012 at 2:01 am: Era

    Just made this! minus the pasta. I must say…SO DELICIOUS! This sauce is now officially the family tomato sauce. Perfectly seasoned!
    I probably should have rolled the meatballs a little more…but those I did roll perfectly still had a hard time keeping shape. (Though the flavor was perfection.) Maybe they needed more breadcrumbs or vital wheat gluten? Any tips for the next time I make them?

  • October 1, 2012 at 2:39 am: Sophie

    Made this tonight, tag team cooking with my bf. so yummy! Reduced sugar to only 1tbsp because I just can’t deal with things being too sweet… Then we had the donut cupcakes from veganomicon for dessert. Glorious! Isa, you’re a genius!

  • October 25, 2012 at 10:19 am: restaurant Fort Lauderdale

    I really enjoyed reading this post. The part when you mentioned leaving a meatball for the last bite really made me smile because it is just the thing I did when I was a kid and still do now that I am an adult. I love spaghetti and “meatballs” but this recipe is certainly a must-try. Thank you for sharing. I am just excited to get started!

  • November 4, 2012 at 4:59 am: Iris

    The recipe looks great’ but my doughter has an allergy to cashew nuts.
    Is there any substitute for this nuts in the sauce?

  • November 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm: Sharon

    Hi Isa, as a relatively ‘new to the vegan world’ person, all of your recipes have been a hit. For this one, I didn’t read your ‘warning’ note of many pots and can confirm it is true… but it was certainly worth it in the end!! I actually used red lentils and found by adding a little more breadcrumb and frying the ‘meatballs’ a little longer in the pan to ensure a firm/crispy outside (before baking). Thanks so much.

  • December 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm: Crystal

    Made a double batch of the meatballs to serve with a brown gravy over rice. Delicious!! I did cook my own green lentils, and had a similar issue with them not entirely holding their shape. I’ll add more vwg and bread crumbs next time, as some have suggested. But the taste and texture was outstanding. For breakfast, I’m crumbling up the leftovers to throw into some creamy gravy to top biscuits. Thanks for a great recipe!

  • January 14, 2013 at 11:40 pm: Kate

    I LOVE your cookbooks and trolling this web site! It’s some of my favorite food ever! But the best part is almost the way you talk about your inspiration (and share your cooking tips). It really feels like hanging out with a friend, and not many people can pull that off. Anyway, thanks for the recipe. Can’t wait to try it! :)

  • March 20, 2013 at 1:43 am: ocean gray

    are the cashews necessary? im allergic.

    • March 20, 2013 at 4:25 pm: IsaChandra

      Nah! Leave em out. Maybe add a little nutritional yeast.

  • March 21, 2013 at 10:29 pm: Melissa

    I made just the meatballs and they are outrageous. I am not a lover of lentils, but this recipe is so tasty and easy to make. I gave up meat six months ago and while I’ve never looked back, I occasionally miss meatballs not so much for flavor but because they were always a quick dinner during a busy work week. This recipe sacrifices nothing. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to wait to eat them until my husband gets home. Thank you!

  • April 3, 2013 at 3:28 pm: Amy

    WOW!!! I just found your website a few weeks ago and have been trying different recipes. They have all been phenomenal! But this one literally made me say “OH MY GOD” after the first bite. SOOOOO delicious! I wanted to make it GF, so instead of the vital wheat gluten I tried adding 1/4 tsp xanthan gum. It seemed to work great as the meatballs held together perfectly! I halfed the entire recipe though, as I just wanted dinner and lunch for myself. THANK YOU, THANK YOU so much for exciting my tastebuds and posting such amazing recipes!!! :-)

    • April 4, 2013 at 5:30 pm: IsaChandra

      Good to know it works with xanthan!

  • June 30, 2013 at 2:57 am: Marcela

    I must try this! Rather than Spaghettios, my goth high school days revolved around pizza rolls with lots of garlic salt and Type-O-Negative (although This Corrosion was also a staple).

    Been whole foods, plant-based for years now but I would make an exception for vegan pizza rolls if you ever feel like experimenting!

  • July 10, 2013 at 1:27 am: Susan

    What a hit! Made exactly as written, my daughters loved the “lentil buddies”, adorable noodles and the not-too-sweet tomato sauce. Thanks Isa, you are a genius.

  • July 18, 2013 at 4:16 pm: Melissa

    I’ve made the lentil balls several times since discovering them and they really hit the spot for people who miss Italian meatballs. I make them larger than the recipe suggests and usually quadruple it. I usually add Italian seasoning and parmesean cheese (or cheez for vegans) for a little more authentic flavor. I also find that they are less mushy if you mix in a little more breadcrumbs to soak up the wetness of some of the ingredients and bake for an extra 5-10 minutes.

    For those who are curious, they freeze excellently, as I usually like to have a batch on hand to make anything from grinders to “meatball” pizza. I’ve made these for my omnivore husband and inlaws and they all love them. Thank you for this recipe!

  • September 30, 2013 at 2:13 am: Sean

    Made this tonight with my wife and it was spectacular. Thank you for yet another great recipie, Isa!

  • October 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm: Betsy

    This is seriously delicious! We’re definitely going to make this again soon!

  • June 26, 2014 at 2:47 pm: katie

    I made a lentil meatball sub and it was bangin’! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • November 21, 2014 at 4:57 am: Jenna

    So yummy!!!!!!! I made this today and it made lots! I used alphagetti, and didn’t have cashews on hand.