Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs

Vegan meatballs are fun to make and easier to do than burger patties. My trick to a nicely textured vegan meatball or burger is rolled oats. They provide cohesion during the initial mixing process and help the pureed bean mixture firm up during cooking as the oats absorb excess moisture. You get a nice crust on the outside while the middle stays moist and tender.

Black beans have an inherent meaty sweetness that I feel makes them a great substitute where ground beef is expected in a recipe. Their color also mimics the appearance for that whimsical factor.

The Balls
One 15 ounce can black beans - drained, but not rinsed
1-1 1/2 cups uncooked rolled oats
1 1/2 tbls canola oil
1 small shallot, sliced
3 cloves garlic
2 tbls spicy mustard
2 tbls sriracha
1 tbl low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp crushed pepper flakes
2 tsps paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsps dry basil
2 tsps black pepper
1 tsp sea salt

Add all ingredients to a food processor. Add 1 cup oats only. Grind into a thick paste. Add more oats if needed to create a mostly smooth, lightly chunky, thick paste that has a similar viscosity to ground meat. It should be somewhat sticky and easy to shape and mold. It should hold its shape easily.

Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. 1  hour is better.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a baking sheet with non stick spray.

Use your hands to roll the mixture into 2 inch balls and arrange them neatly on the baking sheet at least 2 inches apart.

Bake for 20 minutes. Turn over each ball and bake 15 more minutes. Turn off oven, but leave the balls in there for 15 more minutes. This will give them a crispy exterior, but they'll still be tender and moist in the middle.

The Sauce
1/2 pint cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 8 ounce jar artichoke hearts, packed in salt water
1 shallot, diced or 1/4  of a small red onion
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 jalapeno, deseeded and minced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 handful fresh basil, chopped small
2/3 cup white wine
2 tbls olive oil
2 tsps salt and pepper

Cook down the mushrooms, shallot, tomatoes, jalapeno and garlic in the oil, salt and pepper until tender and fragrant and they've released a lot of their liquid. Add the artichokes, the choke jar brine and the wine and basil reduce by a third.

Add cooked pasta and 1/3 cup pasta water to sauce mixture. Saute pasta in the sauce for a few minutes until mostly absorbed, but a little liquid remains.

The Pasta
I used a recipe I got from googling vegan pasta dough. It's just flour, water and sea salt. Knead. Rest. Roll. Cut. Cook pasta in heavily salted water for 4 minutes.

Personally I think the egg-free dough needs some olive oil added to it, but I haven't yet tested this theory. I think the oil would enhance the flavor and also help to make the dough less sticky.

I made the pasta fresh because I just recently got a pasta attachment for my new stand mixer, but dry pasta would be perfectly delicious in the application.

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