Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Spaghetti with Cannellini Bean "Meatballs" and Tomato Sauce

I figured this dish, from Cooking Canuck, would be a good all-in-one vegetarian meal. In the end, I think the Engineer liked it more than I did! I found the “meatballs” a little bland, to be honest; maybe I’d try them with more herbs or some nutritional yeast next time. I couldn’t help but compare this to my omnivorous equivalent, and I have to admit that I much prefer the taste of Molly Wizenberg’s meatballs. I do think it remains a good vegetarian option, though. I made this with my usual tomato-butter sauce, so that’s the recipe I’m giving here, but you can use any good marinara sauce.

To roast a bell pepper, here’s what I do: cook it in the oven at 350 °F for 1 hour, flipping it over after 30 minutes. Remove it from the oven and immediately place it in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap; the condensation will then help you peel the pepper once it has cooled down.

1 ½ 15-oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 roasted bell pepper (see note above), roughly chopped
½ medium yellow onion, grated or very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
1 ½ tsp. dried oregano
1 egg
½ cup dried breadcrumbs
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes in juice, drained, juice reserved, tomatoes finely chopped
½ cup unsalted butter (or margarine, if you can’t digest butter)
1 or 2 medium onions, peeled, halved through root end
½ tsp. (or more) salt
cooked spaghetti or pasta of your choice
parmesan, for grating

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine beans and roasted red pepper. Pulse until chopped, but not smoothly puréed.

Transfer the mixture to a medium-sized bowl and stir in grated onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, egg, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper until well combined. (The amount of breadcrumbs can change depending on the humidity. If you find that the first few “meatballs” are not holding together as firmly as you would like, add more breadcrumbs, then reshape.)

Using a rounded 2 Tbsp.-portion of the bean mixture, form “meatballs” by rolling between the palms of your hands. Place the “meatballs” on the prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly. Bake until the meatballs are firm to the touch and have developed a light golden brown coating, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, combine tomatoes with juice, butter, onions and salt in a large wide pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard onions. Using and immersion blender, process sauce briefly to break up any large pieces of tomato (texture should be even but not completely smooth). Season sauce with more salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Add the “meatballs” to the sauce and stir to coat, then simmer, but for no longer than 5 to 10 minutes, or they risk falling apart.

Serve over spaghetti and top with grated parmesan cheese.

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