Although I think raising David as a vegan is the best for him, I don’t want him to feel like he is going to “miss out” on many traditional kid foods like mac and cheese, s’mores, and chicken nuggets. I’d love to recreate some of these foods for David in a vegan way. They may still not be considered health foods, but when I make them at home I can control the ingredients and I feel good about that! Better yet, this comes together in less than an hour—less than 30 minutes if you aren’t making the meatballs (although they are totally worth it!).
This recreation is of spaghettios, which are one of my husband’s favorites too. Oddly enough, canned processed foods, while routine here in the states, were a rare treat for my husband. Can you imagine a life where fresh mangoes are boring and spaghettios are a treat?! Sounds good to me! None the less, I made this meal for both of my boys and they both gobbled it up! The sauce is a dead ringer for the traditional canned pasta, and the “mystery meatballs” were too. Mysterious in this case because lentils are transformed into tiny protein packed bites!
A note about the pasta—I made this on Friday with letter pasta. The pasta was so cute and I thought it would be perfect. However, it was so small, and so absorbent, that it soaked up all of the sauce and turned into mush—good tasting mush, but still mush. So I made it today with shells. It was SO much better, and the little shells scooped up extra sauce in every bite.
Chef Sarah D’s Not-From-A-Can Spaghetti and Meatballs
1 6 oz tomato paste, reserving 1 T for the lentil meatballs
3 1/2 c unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 T brown sugar
2 tsp salt
3 tsp onion powder
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
4 T nutritional yeast
1 lb shell pasta
Bring water to boil, salt, and cook pasta.
In the meantime, mix all other ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, using a whisk to break up the tomato paste.
Drain cooked pasta and add to sauce. It will seem very soupy but after about 5 minutes the pasta will absorb A LOT of the milk and will make a creamy sauce. Mix well, and then add in meatballs (see recipe below). Stir gently, without breaking up the meatballs.
Mystery Meatballs, adapted from Post Punk Kitchen
1 clove garlic
1 small onion, peeled (about a half cup)
1 1/2 cups cooked green or brown lentils, rinsed, drained (a 15 oz can is fine)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten flour
2 tablespoons aminos/soy sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste (reserved from pasta sauce)
1 teaspoon olive oil
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
dash of oregano
Pulse garlic and onion in food processor until finely chopped. You don’t want any big pieces or they will ruin the texture of the meatball.
With a plastic spatula, transfer the onion/garlic mixture to a mixing bowl and set aside. It’s okay if some remnants are left, just try to get most of it.
Now pulse the lentils, nutritional yeast, wheat gluten, soy sauce, tomato paste, oregano, and olive oil in the food processor. Once everything gets mixed well, puree them until totally smooth, scraping down the sides to make sure you get everything.
Add this mixture to the mixing bowl and combine with the onion mixture and add in the breadcrumbs. Mix really well with your hands for about 2 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Roll the meatballs into ½ tsp balls—I got about 75 meatballs out of this. This goes very fast if you keep your hands clean and dry. Preheat a large skillet over medium heat and pour in a thin layer of olive oil. You don’t want to crowd the pan, so pan fry in two batches. After about 2 minutes flip the meatballs. I used two spoons for this—the tongs squished the meatballs too much and a wooden spoon didn’t flip them over enough.
Transfer first batch to a baking pan lined with parchment, cook the second batch, and transfer all meatballs to the baking pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, shaking the pan every once in awhile to toss the balls so that they cook evenly.
Gently toss into pasta and sauce mix, being careful not to break up meatballs. Enjoy!