Veganuary Day 9: Italian Bread & Nut Balls with Spaghetti

One of my surprise favourite recipes from last year was the Italian Bread Balls, Polpette di Pane served with my omnipresent tomato and basil pasta. I was fairly dubious about making the polpette in the first place and not expecting much from just ciabatta, Parmesan and so few other ingredients but they were outstanding! A real enhancement to my pretty standard pasta dish. 

I’m fairly apprehensive about making them again, this time in vegan form, as I’ve adapted the original recipe and it therefore has a LOT to live up to!

My fascinating discovery in this dish was using chia seeds in place of egg. Dissolving a small amount in water produces an egg like consistency and in this recipe it was a perfect binder to hold the rest of the ingredients together.

Ingredients:

  • 150g mixed nuts and seeds (I used walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds but you can use any combination)
  • 50g wholemeal bread
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp miso paste
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds mixed with a little water to create an egg-like consistency 
  • Small bunch parsley
  • 1 x garlic clove, roughly chopped

For the pasta sauce:

  • 12 x vine ripened tomatoes 
  • 2 x garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 x chilli, green or red, finely sliced
  • Bunch of basil, roughly chopped
  • 2 x tbsp pitted black olives 
  • Spaghetti, for serving (I used black bean spaghetti)

First make the sauce: cut a cross on the bottom of each of the tomatoes and place in a large pan of boiling water. When the skins begin to loosen, remove the tomatoes from the water and drain on kitchen paper (save a cupful of the cooking water). Peel the skins and cut the flesh from them, discarding the core.

Cook slowly in olive oil, along with the chilli and garlic. Season well with salt and pepper and add a good splash of the cooking water. Leave to bubble gently with the lid on as you prepare the bread balls.

Place the bread, nuts and seeds in a food processor and whizz up until they resemble breadcrumbs.

Add the garlic, parsley, nutritional yeast, tahini and miso paste and combine again.

Stir a small amount of water into the chia seeds and leave for a few minutes until a gel forms – it wants to be the thickness of an egg white. Pour into the food processor and blend to make a dough.

Break off a golf ball sized amount and roll into a ball. Repeat with the rest of the mixture (I made 10 from this amount).

Drop the polpette into the sauce for 15 minutes (three per person is plenty), then turn over and cook for a further 10 minutes whilst you prepare the pasta. 

Stir the olives and basil into the sauce, serve on top of the cooked spaghetti and garnish with extra basil. 

This dish worked so well for our Tuesday night family meal – accommodating all of the diverse diet preferences! 

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