Vegetarian Cheese-Potato “Meatballs” for Spaghetti Sauce

My granddaughter Clara has tended away from meat for some months now. These cheese-potato “meatballs” are what I developed recently for her and those others in the family who eat some meat but also seek out vegetarian dishes. Using a double batch of the same sauce as for meat meatballs (which was in an earlier blog post on 7/30/2019), but splitting it and cooking the meatballs in the one half of the sauce in another pot, I made a pasta dinner for the crowd with options of beef-pork meatballs or cheese-potato “meatballs” to cover the preferences.

Cheese-potato balls with "trotole" pasta
These are a somewhat firmer variation on potato dumplings or matzo balls, and contain cheese for extra flavor and protein. I poached (cooked) the veggie balls in water before putting them in the prepared sauce.

The recipe for the cheese-potato balls and sauce serves six, enough for a pound of pasta.

Make cheese-potato “meatballs” first:
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk or water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 cups matzo meal (from Kosher or International section of supermarket)
1 cup dry instant mashed potatoes (such as Idahoan, from supermarket)
1/4 cup dry unseasoned breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated or finely minced onion
1 medium clove garlic, finely minced or put through press
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon dry oregano
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice
Pinch of cayenne

In large bowl, beat eggs and mix in liquid ingredients. Add remaining ingredients and mix then knead well to make a dry dough. Shape and roll into 1-inch balls, moistening hands from time to time, setting the balls on a baking sheet or large platter.

Boil a large pot of water, at least 3 inches deep, and salt it with a tablespoon of salt. Drop the balls into the boiling water. They will sink to the bottom initially then start to float after a few minutes. Stir them gently from time to time. Once they float, reduce heat and simmer them 15 minutes. Lift them out of the water with a slotted spoon.

When sauce is made and still simmering, add the cooked cheese-potato balls and heat a few minutes. Serve over pasta as you would for real meatballs, adding some sauce and sprinkling with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Use a favorite tomato “Marinara” sauce, or the one below:
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon whole fennel seeds (optional)
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 large (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (I prefer Hunts or Kroger, among American brands)
1/2 cup water (rinse the tomato can with it before adding it to the tomatoes)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Large pinch thyme or oregano
6 fresh basil leaves (optional)

In large wide pot (not cast iron), gently fry garlic and fennel seed, if used, in oil until garlic is softened but not golden. Stir in tomatoes, water and all other ingredients except basil. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally, scraping bottom of the pan well. Taste and add salt if needed.

Add the cooked, drained cheese-potato balls. Heat to simmering, stirring carefully.
Taste sauce. Add salt if needed. Stir in basil leaves, if used. Remove from heat.


Lima Beans prepared like Greek Fava Beans

This dish, based on a traditional Greek way to prepare fresh fava beans, works extremely well with frozen Fordhook limas, which are available at supermarkets. I’ve compared the limas side by side with true favas, and they come out very close.

Bowl: Nancy Green, Watkinsville, GA
True fava beans are Old World beans common in the Mediterranean, while limas are New World beans (from Peru originally, indicated by their name). Favas are tediously difficult to shell from their pods, need to have the skins individually removed from around the beans, and are limited in season plus expensive. Fordhook style lima beans can be bought frozen relatively inexpensively in the supermarket.

I’ve taught the recipe several times to classes in Athens (GA) that had pretty extensive international experience, and the dish was very popular.

The recipe serves six as a side dish.

3 tablespoons minced onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt
Large pinch black pepper
1 (12-ounce) bag frozen Fordhook (large) lima beans
1 tablespoon tomato paste or 1 Roma tomato, diced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon snipped fresh dill (strongly preferred) or minced flat parsley

In cooking pot, gently fry onion in oil until it softens but does not start to brown. Add water, salt and pepper.

When mixture boils, stir in frozen limas. Bring back to a boil, stirring frequently. Then cover pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans become tender, 15 minutes or so.

Add tomato paste or diced tomato, plus a little water if becoming dry. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, five minutes. Taste a bean. It should be fairly tender and creamy. If salt is needed, add a little. Add a little water if too dry.

Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and dill or parsley.

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