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meatless monday: red bean meatballs

May 3, 2010

I have no idea what to call a meatball with no meat in it.  Veggie balls?  That doesn’t seem right.  Bean balls?  Doesn’t sound appetizing.  We’ll stick to meatballs.  Everyone gets it.

With a minor tweak to La Cucina Italiana’s original recipe, this became our meatless monday dish.   While I really enjoyed the “meatballs”, I can easily say that I could’ve done without the spicy sauce.  In the future, I might go with a simple spicy tomato sauce.

The original recipe calls for pancetta which we left out given the whole “meatless” thing, but I could see how something smoky would add to the dish.

Serve with a side of baked rosemary polenta, it complemented the dish nicely.

red bean meatballs in a spicy sauce
adapted from La Cucina Italiana



  • 4 oz tofu, cut into 1/4-inch dice lightly seasoned with cayenne pepper (recipe calls for 7 oz pancetta)
  • 1 15-oz can red beans, well rinsed and drained
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 3-4 tbsp canola oil


  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cored and finely chopped (I used sun-dried tomatoes for a lack of pepper, not recommended)
  • 1/2 celery rib, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 fresh chile peppers, preferably arbol, but I used peperoncini
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • salt



1.  In a small saucepan combine vegetable broth, bell pepper, celery, 3 tablespoons olive oil, chile peppers, tomato paste, garlic and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
2  Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
3.  Remove and discard garlic; remove sauce from heat.


    1.  Brown tofu (or pancetta) in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, about 8 minutes. (Drain fat is using pancetta).
    2.  In a food processor, pulse the beans until chopped; do not puree them into a paste. One or two pulses should do it.
    3.  You don’t want to puree the beans, you want them very coarsely chopped.
    4.  Transfer to a large bowl. Add pancetta, remaining tablespoon olive oil, egg white and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
    5.  Using wet hands, blend until just combined well (do not overmix).
    6.  Form 1-tablespoon portions into 30 (1-inch) balls.
    7.  Put flour in a shallow bowl. Lightly beat whole egg in another shallow bowl.
    8.  Dip 1 ball into egg, letting excess drip off, then dredge in flour to lightly coat. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
    9.  Repeat with remaining balls.
    10. Return your sauce to a low heat.
    11.  In a large saucepan, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Fry balls, in 2 batches, turning, until a dark golden crust has formed on the outside, about 3 minutes per batch.
    12.  Serve with sauce, which should now be warm again.

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