Falafel – Burgers – Veggie balls

Vegan and gluten-free spaghetti meatballs - Μακαρόνια με κεφτεδάκια φακής χωρίς γλουτένη - Veganinathens.com

Vegan spaghetti and lentil-balls – gluten free recipe

…that actually look and taste just like the original Italian spaghetti and meatballs and yet they are 100% vegan! Although I don’t have an Italian grandmother or mom, I remember eating this dish at home when I was a kid, especially from spring to early autumn, when basil in our pots was abundant, since this aromatic herb together with garlic gives the characteristic touches.

Vegan and gluten-free spaghetti meatballs - Μακαρόνια με κεφτεδάκια φακής χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan in Athens

In order to create the vegan version of this classic comfort food, we make delicious lentil-balls instead of meatballs and we dip them in an aromatic tomato sauce seasoned with basil, garlic and some spices, reformulating thus the original recipe, without compromising in taste, texture and convenience. Another thing I love about this dish is that it contains no gluten and so, it can be served with gluten-free spaghetti, in case we want to keep our meal 100% gluten-free.

Vegan and gluten-free spaghetti meatballs - Μακαρόνια με κεφτεδάκια φακής χωρίς γλουτένη - Veganinathens.com

Ingredients
(for 4-5 portions)

1 packet (500 g) spaghetti (we can choose a gluten-free brand)

for the lentil-balls

  • 1 cup (225 g) dried green lentils soaked in water for 7-8 hours or overnight
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats *, ground
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice or apple-cider vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Vegan and gluten-free spaghetti meatballs - Μακαρόνια με κεφτεδάκια φακής χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan in Athens

for the tomato-sauce

  • 2 packages (1 kg) slightly concentrated tomato juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 -3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

chopped basil leaves to serve

Vegan and gluten-free spaghetti meatballs - Μακαρόνια με κεφτεδάκια φακής χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan in Athens

Method

  1. Put the lentils in a bowl and cover with water to soak overnight. Then drain, grind in a food-processor and put them in a bowl. Add the onion, parsley, garlic, carrot and spices and knead adding the oats gradually until you get a fairly firm mixture.
  2. Shape lentil-balls in size slightly larger than a walnut. In a saucepan put a generous amount of olive-oil and fry until golden brown. Alternatively, bake in the oven at 200 ° C for about 40 minutes.
  3. Prepare the sauce: In a large, deep pan add the olive oil together with the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes over medium heat. Add the wine, balsamic vinegar and the remaining ingredients. Stir, cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and put the meatballs into the sauce carefully. Do not put too many, as they are going to absorb moisture from the sauce, gaining thus some additional volume.
  5. Turn on the heat and cook 10 more minutes over low heat. Turn of the heat and let for half an hour to set.
  6. Cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions and drain. Serve with the meatballs and generous spoonfuls of sauce. You can garnish with chopped fresh basil for extra flavor.

* You can use gluten-free certified rolled oats or rolled buckwheat or quinoa instead.

Vegan spaghetti and meatballs soy-free, gluten-free - Vegan in Athens

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Vegan Greek soutzoukakia - Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Vegan in Athens

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia

Or Smyrna soutzoukakia (plural: soutzoukakia / singular: soutzoukaki, from the Turkish word “sucuk”) as we call them in Greece, are oblong meatballs immersed in a spicy and fragrant tomato sauce and they are considered one of the most delectable Greek dishes. It is said that the recipe for soutzoukakia came to Greece together with the refuges from Smyrna and this is why its name points to this Ancient Greek city.

Since soutzoukakia were the number one in my childhood’s top ten foods, I always wanted to develop a vegan recipe with vegan meatballs and the exact same taste and texture I still remember from the times my mum used to take us to that specific restaurant that made the best soutzoukakia in the whole world. For this purpose I use soaked green lentils -not cooked, as I want texture- and oat flour instead of the eggs, that works as a binding ingredient. The rest of the ingredients and cooking methods I use are exactly the same the original recipe calls for.

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia - Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Vegan in Athens

Now you may wonder if my vegan soutzoukakia turn out like those I used to eat as a child. The answer is that they turn out much better! Basically we have to consider two things. The first one is the spicy and garlicky tomato sauce which is as flavorful as the original and actually it thickens even better owing to the starches that lentil-balls contain. The second thing is the lentil-balls themselves, the really tricky part of the recipe! Well, I am proud to say that they have the same firm, chewy texture, emanate the aromas of cumin, garlic, cinnamon and allspice and regarding the taste -oh gods!- they are scrumptious, mildly more sweet and just as spicy. Keep in mind that the herbs and spices as well as the olive oil play a central role in the recipe so I would suggest not to omit any of those listed, in order to achieve an authentic experience.

Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Veganinathens.com

Ingredients

for the lentil-balls

  • 300 g dried green lentils
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ – ¾ cup ground oats or oatmeal (use gluten free if you want)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

for the tomato sauce

  • 2-3 fresh ripe tomatoes, grated
  • 1 package (400 g) tomato passata
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6-7 allspice berries
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia - Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Vegan in Athens

Method

1. Soak lentils overnight (at least 8 hours) and drain. Process them in the food-processor until mushy and transfer in a bowl. Add the onion, parsley, garlic and spices and knead adding gradually the oatmeal until the mixture is consistent and you can shape tangerine-sized balls.

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia - Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Vegan in Athens
2. Shape oblong meatballs and place on a tray, lined with parchment paper.
3. In a saucepan put enough olive oil and fry the meatballs from both sides until brown. Alternatively, you can bake in the oven at 200 oC for approximately 40 minutes (but you should try them at least once fried!). Transfer to a platter.
4. Prepare the sauce: Choose a large, deep skillet. Put into it the olive oil, the garlic cloves and allspice and saute for 1 minute. Add the wine and the rest of the ingredients. Cover the pan with the lid and simmer for a quarter.
5. Place the lentil-balls carefully in the sauce, but do not overload the skillet as they will increase in volume after absorbing the sauce.
6. Cook for ten more minutes over low heat, turning them upside down one or two times to be fully covered with the sauce. Turn off the heat let them sit for fifteen to thirty minutes for the aromas and tastes to combine.
7. Serve hot with mashed potatoes or rice.

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia - Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Vegan in Athens

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