Serves 2 to 4
So many of my best memories revolve around a big juicy meatball, and lots of slurpy, garlicky marinara. My grandma’s dinner table with a big platter of her meatballs right in the center of it, always featuring a few burnt ones that everyone in the family tried to grab before anyone else could. My best friend’s mom, a beautiful Italian woman with jet black hair and catlike blue eyes, feeding me almost every night of the week. And later, when I went vegetarian, cooking tofu balls and spaghetti with my mom and sis. Even decades later, when I lived in a loft with no heat, every Sunday night my roommates and I would watch Sopranos and eat spaghetti and meatballs, made from some storebought soy sausage stuff.
Well, this recipe is none of those exactly, but it’s a mishmash of all those experiences. I love the texture of tempeh in meatballs, it’s succulent and satisfying. A few condiments and pantry spices give me the childhood flavors that I crave. Definitely double this recipe if you feel like it, and don’t forget to burn a few…those are always the best loved.
The method of simmering tempeh here is one that is so useful when you want a more neutral flavor! Learn it, live it. This recipe is from Isa Does It.
For the meatballs:
16 ounces tempeh
1 cup water
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
Several dashes fresh black pepper
1/2 cup very finely chopped yellow onion
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Olive oil for pan frying
For the rest:
8 oz spaghetti
4 cups marinara, storebought or homemade
Red pepper flakes
Fresh black pepper
Boil a pot of salted water for spaghetti.
Meanwhile, crumble tempeh in small pieces into a 2 quart pot. Submerge in a cup of water, a tablespoon soy sauce and one tablespoon olive oil. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer, with the lid slightly ajar so that steam can escape, for 15 minutes. Most of the water should be absorbed. If there is excess water, drain and place tempeh in a mixing bowl and place in the freezer to cool It should take 10 minutes or so, give it a stir after 5 minutes to make it cool evenly. In the meantime, prepare your onions.
Once cool, add garlic, ketchup, mustard, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper then mix well. Mix in the onions. Now add the breadcrumbs and use your hands to mix until it holds together very well. If it seems loose, add extra breadcrumbs by the tablespoon until you can form very tight, compact balls. Scoop up about golfball sized amounts and roll between your hands to form the balls.
Your water should be boiling at this point, so cook the spaghetti now. When it’s ready, drain and toss with marinara in the pot you boiled it in. Keep covered and hot until ready to eat.
Preheat a large non-stick pan (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Coat the pan with a thin layer of olive oil. Add meatballs one by one, rolling them in the pan to coat in oil. If your pan is not big enough to fit all of the balls comfortably, then do them in two batches. Pan fry for about 10 minutes, rolling them frequently, to cook evenly.
Serve spaghetti in big bowls, with three or four meatballs each. Top with extra red pepper flakes or fresh black pepper and slurp it up!