Recipes > Spaghetti & Plant-Based "Meat" Balls

Spaghetti & Plant Based "Meat" Balls


These wonderfully flavorful meatless meatballs will please everyone at the table—whether or not they eat meat. Made with mushrooms, black beans, spinach, onions, brown rice, sunflower seeds and spices.
  • Serves: 4 to 6
  • Active Time: 40 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr
  • Views: 44,370
  • Success Rating: 84% (?)
    0% - I fed it to the dog


Step 1: Preparing Your Mise en Place

Preparing Your Mise en Place
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup chopped cremini mushrooms
  • 1 cup cooked black beans*
  • 1 cup packed baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives (optional)
  • 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts (optional)
  • 3 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
  • 3 to 4 cups Tomato Sauce*
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes


To prepare your mise en place, be sure you have one cup of cooked and chilled (or frozen) rice.

Dice the onion, mince the garlic and roughly chop the mushrooms. *Note: Separate the black beans into two 1/2 cup portions. Lastly, gather the spinach and spices.

For added flavor, add Kalamata olives, pine nuts and/or sun-dried tomatoes. To prepare these items, roughly chop them and set aside.

*NOTE: Be sure you have some Tomato Sauce on hand before you start. Alternatively, you could make an Arrabbiata Sauce for this recipe.

Step 2: Preparing the Meatball Mixture

Preparing the Meatball Mixture
  • 1 tbsp oil (grapeseed or olive oil)*


*Note: If desired, omit the oil and dry sauté the onions with a bit of vegetable stock or water.

To prepare the meatballs, heat a large fry pan over medium heat. Once it is hot, add the onions and let cook until translucent and just starting to color. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Add the mushrooms and then cover and let cook for a few minutes. Remove the lid and add the spinach. Cover and continue to cook for another minute or so. You are just looking to extract the moisture from the mushrooms and spinach—the spinach should still be nice and green. Once all of the moisture has evaporated from the pan, add the spices.

Meanwhile, pulse the sunflower seeds in a food processor until coarsely ground.

Next, add the cooked vegetable mixture and half of the beans (1/2 cup) and pulse just until the mixture comes together.

Place this mixture into a large bowl and add the remaining black beans and rice. Mix to combine. If adding the additional olives, pine nuts and/or sun-dried tomatoes, add those at this point. They can be added earlier but adding them at this stage allows them to be a bit more prominent in the meatballs. They also provide nice texture. Mix to combine all of the ingredients. Taste for seasoning and if needed, add a bit of salt.

Step 3: Forming and Cooking the Meatballs

Forming and Cooking the Meatballs


To cook the meatballs, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

NOTE: This makes approximately 16 meatballs, depending on their size.

To roll the balls, form them into approximately 1-ounce balls (about 1 1/2 inches) or whatever size you prefer. As you make the balls, place them onto a parchment lined baking sheet—or simply spray a baking sheet with oil.

Bake the meatballs for approximately 30 minutes or until crisp on the outside and hot all the way through. If desired, you can turn the meatballs halfway through cooking to brown the other side.

Meanwhile, get ready to cook the pasta.

Step 4: Cooking the Pasta & Heating the Sauce

Cooking the Pasta & Heating the Sauce
  • 300-400 g gluten-free spaghetti noodles*
  • 6 L/qt cold water
  • sea salt (1 tsp salt per L/qt of water)


*Note: Regular pasta can be used instead of gluten-free pasta, if desired. The type or shape of pasta you use is up to you. Typically, meatballs are served with spaghetti, but fettuccine or linguini can be used, if you prefer.

How much pasta you cook depends on how hungry people are. As a guide, you should allow 75g to 115g/3oz to 4oz dried pasta per person.

To cook the pasta, follow the cooking times on the package. Just be sure to use plenty of boiling, salted water and cook until al dente (if using dried pasta).

Meanwhile, bring the tomato sauce to a gentle boil and then turn the heat down to low and let gently simmer.

Once the pasta has cooked, drain and return to the pot. Add enough tomato sauce to lightly coat the noodles. Next, add the meatballs and very gently toss. Alternatively, the meatballs can be gently tossed with a bit of sauce in a separate bowl—just be gentle with them so they don’t fall apart.

Serve immediately in warmed pasta bowls and enjoy!


  • Gloria M
    Gloria M
    I made this this evening for a small group of carnivores who all declared it 'a keeper'. I went for broke and included all of the ingredient options. Delicious, with a wonderful texture. I had some 'Basic Tomato Sauce' in the freezer, but had to cook it down a bit as it was quite watery after being frozen. And I used bucatini pasta which worked quite well. We'll definitely being having this one again, meatless Monday or not.
  • Ken R Rouxbe Staff
    Ken R
    Thank you Gloria! It's amazing how good food is universal - whether it's made with meat or not. Thanks so much for sharing your Rouxbe meal with friends and showing them the power of plants. Cheers.
  • Darren S
    Darren S
    Im not a big fan of spinach. Is there any issues if I sub it for another green leaf? Cabbage or something like that?
  • Dawn T
    Dawn T
    I have not tried this recipe with any other green leafy vegetable, but I don't see why it wouldn't work. Just be sure there is not too much extra liquid or anything and you should be fine. Let us know how they turn out. Enjoy!
  • Anne B
    Anne B
    The crispness on outside and moistness inside added a lot to them, they were appreciated by meat eaters as well. Lovely comforting meal. Only found the rice on the outside was too hard to chew after a while in the oven and i might also blend rice in next time. They fell apart a little too so it might help to bind them? They might make a good burger with some lemon!
  • Dawn T
    Dawn T
    Appreciate the feedback Anne and your suggestions sound like good ones. Glad that you (and the meat eaters) like them though. Cheers!
  • Darren S
    Darren S
    Made these tonight and used cabbage in place of spinach and red beans instead of black ones. Also didnt have pine nuts so used walnuts! Thought they were pretty good! Didnt fall apart which is a first for me when making veg only patties/balls! Def needed the sauce as were a little on the dry side but tasty all the same!
  • Dawn T
    Dawn T
    Nice work on the substitutions Darren. You alterations sound very nice. Thanks for sharing what you did. I'll have to give it a try next time. Cheers!
  • Christophe K
    Christophe K
    I've added 1/2 cup of Vital wheat gluten flour to the recipe just before shaping, they turned out to be easier to shape, held better when cooked and had a bit more texture, but of course now they are not gluten free.
  • Nika S
    Nika S
    I appreciate the recipe - will give it a go tonight to shake things up a bit. I've been following a similar meatless meatballs recipe for years, using a tablespoon of ground flax seed mixed with 3 tablespoons of lukewarm water as a binding agent (I let it sit on the counter for about 15 min so it thickens before adding it in). Usually I'll also add a spoon or two of yeast flakes to the mixture as my family is quite fond of the flavour it adds to the dish. My mom has been cooking them according to this recipe and her 'shroom balls are always a hit (google translate does a fairly good job on deciphering this one):
  • Ken R Rouxbe Staff
    Ken R
    Great thoughts, Nika. Thanks for sharing. ~Ken
  • Sharon T
    Sharon T
    I'd love to try this recipe but what can I put in to replace the mushrooms?
  • Ken R Rouxbe Staff
    Ken R
    Hi Sharon- You can simply omit them or add another vegetable of your choosing. You cam also just increase the other ingredients a bit to account for the volume. ~Ken
  • Sharon T
    Sharon T
    So simple, why didn't I think of that! Thanks Ken
  • Jack S
    Jack S
    Can I use this recipe for a meatloaf? I was thinking that instead of shaping them into balls, I'll just form them into loaf pans and bake until the internal temperature is high enough. Any problems with that?
  • Dawn T
    Dawn T
    I don't see why that would be an issue — let us know how it turns out. Cheers!
  • Mariela F
    Mariela F
    I'll leave a comment when I make this interesting recipe.
  • Lisa A
    Lisa A
    Delicious! This recipe is a keeper.
  • Dawn L
    Dawn L
    Thought I would give this a try and tossed in some Kalamata olives which I soon regretted. I love olives but the taste was overwhelming and didn't match the freshly made tomato sauce. My olives were sliced but still too strong: if you do add some, I recommend dicing them and using less than suggested. I substituted cooked steal cut oats and they were a great binder and didn't dry out too much.
  • Kirk B
    Kirk B
    Thanks so much Dawn! I am with you on the olives - a bit strong! Glad you are enjoying your time and cooking with Rouxbe! Chef Kirk
  • Farrah A
    Farrah A
    I made these a few weeks ago as a trial run and they were delicious! I am making them again this weekend for a large dinner party, so I'm interested to see how everyone else likes them. I used quinoa in place of the brown rice last time and they actually held up quite nice. I would certainly recommend the addition of the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and pine nuts, as I agree this adds great flavor. Thank you for this great recipe!
  • Eric W Rouxbe Staff
    Eric W
    Great to know you enjoyed this preparation, Farrah! It really does make a nice 'meat' ball. Happy holidays!
  • Marcella C
    Marcella C
    This was a wonderful recipe! My boyfriend loved it and so did I. I did the basic version, next time I'll add the sundried tomatoes and kalamata olives!
  • Myra W
    Myra W
    Love this recipe. I have made it multiple times and it’s always a hit! However, after freezing the balls they tend to fall apart in the sauce, which isn’t a problem for us, we just call it Bolognese sauce, instead of meatballs. My husband prefers it this way so I am going to make the recipe and instead of forming balls, just spread it out and bake it on a sheet pan and add to the sauce for our family get together next month.
  • Mavis F
    Mavis F
    Is it possible to make these ahead of time and freeze before baking? Wondering if it will help maintain the texture to not be too crumbly.
  • Lauren L
    Lauren L
    Hi Mavis. You can form the balls and freeze them. I would freeze them on a small baking sheet and then transfer them to a ziplock or tupperware so they hold their shape. Lauren
  • Susan G
    Susan G
    I really liked these - substituted cannellini beans for black beans and toasted walnuts for pine nuts because that’s what I had. Will definitely make again! Thanks for a great recipe -
  • Char N Rouxbe Staff
    Char N
    Hi Susan: thanks for writing. This is a great recipe, and serves as a good "cross over" meal for everyone to enjoy. Your ingredient stand-in items sound delicious. Happy cooking! Cheers - Char
  • Marina  F
    Marina F
    I made this today, and it was tasty. I added some salt, pepper, and parsley. I took twice as long to cook as the recipe indicated--the 'meat' balls had trouble holding together, even though I cooked them on a silicone mat. I used cashews instead of the sunflower seeds (was fresh out). The flavor was great, definitely a keeper!
  • Char N Rouxbe Staff
    Char N
    Hi Marina: my grandmother was Italian, and there is a knack that develops with time. I find using a small ice cream scoop to be very helpful in forming the "eatballs," and especially with not overhandling the mixture. Sounds like you created a delicious dinner! Very nicely done. Cheers, Char
  • Cindy K
    Cindy K
    We love these “eatballs”. I made a double batch the last time and added the sun dried tomatoes . Made stuffed peppers with half and made ball and put them into the freezer with the other half. I did add a flax egg to the second half to help bind them together better. Then I made a mushroom gravy to pour over the peppers and the boiled potatoes. So delicious. Our friend wants me to make him a lasagna with the mixture next time. Thanks so much for the awesome education.
  • Char N Rouxbe Staff
    Char N
    Hi Cindy: It is always so exciting to read about great results from a recipe. You have a whole new baseline for creating plant-based dishes. Thanks for writing--we are excited for you! Cheers, Char
  • Laura J
    Laura J
    I'm an inexperienced cook. I have never made anything meatless. I have bought at the store and have not liked meatless products. I also don't like beans that much. But I did like these a lot. I tested it on my mom and she liked it too which was surprising. I didn't have brown rice so I used seeds of change rice already packaged that has quinoa in it and brown rice I bought from Costco.

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