Spaghetti and Not-Meatballs

Spaghetti and Not-Meatballs

As you will be quick to realize if you follow this blog, I’m vegetarian. Well, I eat fish and seafood. But I try to avoid calling myself a “pescetarian” because it confuses people. They think it’s like Anglican or something.

Labels aside, I do not eat meat in any form. As a general rule, though, I’m not a huge fan of “meat substitutes.” Veggie dogs? Bleh. Tofurky? Gross. (I will admit, I have a thing for Tofurky brand “bacon” though. That stuff is good.)

But I do like recipes that substitute meat without imitating it. This recipe is one of those. The spinach balls aren’t trying to taste like meatballs, but they are a yummy veggie alternative to the meaty version of spaghetti.

And carnivores, before you scoff at these little green guys, I have the seal of approval of both the meat-eaters chez moi: my partner, Piero (who, I will admit, ate a mixture of spinach balls and meat balls), and Big Ben, the cat, who did not eat any but really wanted to while I was trying to take photos of the raw spinach balls.

Ben wants food

Sautéed spinach is blended with bread crumbs, nutritional yeast, and eggs to form little balls of goodness, which are fried up and served with my version of a simple spaghetti aglio e olio.

Spaghetti and Not-Meatballs

The original recipe is vegan and can be found here. This recipe called for a homemade pesto, but, it being January, my supply of fresh basil from my balcony garden has long ended. And I simply refuse to buy the amount of fresh basil required for homemade pesto at the store, because grocery store herb prices are ridiculous. So there. I made a simpler pasta, tossed with a mixture of butter, lemon, chili flakes, and garlic. Delish.

You could also serve the pasta with a store-bought pesto, or a quick tomato sauce. I’m just a sucker for butter. (Pescetarianism aside, I can’t even pretend to be close to vegan!)

Spaghetti and Not-Meatballs

Spaghetti and Spinach Balls

Recipe adapted from Vegalicious.

Serving Size: 4


For spinach balls:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 450g fresh spinach (I didn’t have enough fresh, so I used half fresh and subbed half a package of frozen spinach)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly group black pepper
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped

For pasta:

  • ½ package of spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Grated parmesan cheese, for garnish


  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan.
  2. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the spinach and sauté until wilted.
  4. If you have a food processor (I, sadly, don’t): Pulse together the bread crumbs, spices, and spinach with its juices. Add the nutritional yeast and pulse to combine. Add the eggs to the mixture and pulse to combine. If you are a sad unfortunate soul like me without a food processor: You can either use an immersion blender like I did, or mix in small batches using a blender. For an immersion blender, combine the bread crumbs, spices, spinach, nutritional yeast, and eggs in a large bowl and blend until mixed well and there are no large pieces of spinach.
  5. Lastly, add the chopped onions and pulse/blend again. You want the onion mixed well, but with small pieces still visible.
  6. To form balls, scoop a heaping tablespoon of the mixture and roll it in your hands. The mixture is very sticky, so it helps to slightly wet your hands.
  7. Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan and fry the spinach balls evenly. It’s hard to maintain the round shape of the spinach balls, so try using tongs to gently “squish” them back into shape when you flip them. While waiting for the spinach balls to cook, boil salted water for the spaghetti in a large pot and cook the spaghetti until al dente.
  8. For a quick pasta sauce, heat the butter and olive oil in a small sauce pan. Once heated, add the garlic and chili flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then toss with the cooked spaghetti and lemon juice. Serve spinach balls on top of pasta with a generous grating of parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti and Not-Meatballs

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