Delicious meat-free italian meatballs that are full of protein, spices, hard-to-find nutrients, and oil-free and vegan. And they are all wrapped up in a comforting tomato sauce that will warm your heart! Have on pasta, or in wraps or just eat a meatball or two by itself.
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian, Mediterranean
Keyword: chickpea meatballs, healthy meatball sub, italian meatballs, meat-free meatballs, meatball sub, oil-free meatballs, protein dinner, vegan meatballs
Does it keep?: 1-month in freezer, 1-week refrigerated
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.Prepare the 3 flax eggs and set aside so they can rest.Layer a cookie sheet with parchment and brush that ever so lightly with olive oil
Make the Meatballs
Rinse the chickpeas (I used canned), put in a food processor and spin to a chunky texture - add the flax eggs when they are ready and process until the flax is blended through. The chickpea texture is going to be a bit chunky, not smooth.
Add this mixture to a mixing bowl with all other ingredients, adding 1/4 cup of ketchup only. (After mixing, if mixture is too dry, add the additional 1/4 cup of ketchup. If mixture is too dry, add a touch more flour.)Use your hands (gloved or very wet) to knead/mix, and then roll 12-24 meatballs depending on size, setting them on the cookie sheet. The mixture is very sticky - I kept my hand very wet and was able to handle them without sticking, and this added moisture to the meatballs.
Bake them uncovered for 20 minutes, turning once halfway through, and bake another 10 minutes so the balls are cooked soft in center but crusty on the outside.If you want the center of the meatball to be dryer, bake longer - we like the outside crusty, but the center very soft. It's not meat so you don't have to worry about under-cooking.The meatballs may seem dry coming out of the oven but this is a good thing, it will hold them together.
Bury them in your marinara sauce and they will be awesome the next day, though we also ate them right away.
Make the Sauce
Prepare the ingredients. Chop the onions, and tomatoes. And peel the garlic cloves.
Then, put a tbsp or two of olive oil in the bottom of a deep skillet or dutch oven and turn on to medium heat. While the oil is heating, add in the onions and garlic when the oil seems sizzly.
Next, add the chopped tomatoes and paste, and all the other ingredients including the bay leaf and simmer covered on very low heat for about 30 minutes - add water if it looks too dry to simmer.
After 30 minutes, remove the bay leaf. Cover the sauce and add the meatballs to it when ready.
The marinara and meatballs can last several days refrigerated, and easily frozen in single-meal batches.
ABOUT OIL-FREE: I am moving more and more into the camp that believes food should be free from processed oils and get oils naturally instead from whole foods.And so I did make these meatballs oil-free but I want to share that I think they probably would hold together easier with 2-3 tbsp of olive oil. So feel free to experiment. Olive oil has been found to be quite beneficial to many body processes.