chickpea meatballs and spaghetti with homemade marinara

Chickpea Meatballs and Spaghetti with Homemade Marinara Sauce | Vegan | Gluten Free | Soy Free | Oil Free

Homemade meals are the best. There is something romantic about taking individual ingredients and combining them to create a delicious and cohesive recipe. Well my Chickpea Meatballs and Spaghetti with Homemade Marinara is one of those meals!

My inspiration for this came from a poll I took on Instagram that pitted Italian food against Mexican food. My followers edged more towards Mexican, which inspired my Chipotle Pinto Beans Tacos. However, I knew that pasta and meatballs were next on the list.

Chickpea Meatballs and Spaghetti with Homemade Marinara Sauce | Vegan | Gluten Free | Soy Free | Oil Free
Marinara 101

For the longest time, my wife and I would buy marinara sauce from the store because it’s convenient and tastes good. We never knew what we were missing because homemade marinara sauce has never made it in our weekly recipe list.

The key to making a fantastic marinara is as much quality of ingredients as is the method of cooking. San Marzano canned tomatoes are hands down, the best on the market. The flavor is much more rich and sweeter, than generic store brand canned tomatoes.

Additionally, the how you cook marinara makes a big difference in how all the flavors blend together. After researching what the best chefs do to prepare flavorful marinara sauce, I noticed a variety of techniques, but picked up on the commonalities. So I took the best methods and applied them to create my own recipe!

Five Tips to Create Rich and Flavorful Marinara Sauce:

  • Keep it low and slow; let the ingredients simmer for at least 30 minutes; don’t rush it.
  • San Marzano canned tomatoes are best. 
  • Soften onions by cooking for about 15 minutes before adding in the rest of the ingredients
  • Use a skillet rather than a saucepan. You want as much surface area as you can get.
  • Always add dried herbs at the beginning and fresh herbs at the end.
Chickpea Meatballs and Spaghetti with Homemade Marinara Sauce | Vegan | Gluten Free | Soy Free | Oil Free
Chickpea Meatballs

The Chickpea Meatballs are extremely easy to make. You literally just add all your ingredients into a food processor and pulse until a rough dough forms.

You may also notice that my recipe does not include a flour or breadcrumbs, as most recipes do. While breadcrumbs are great to add crunch, they are still processed. So I chose whole almonds instead to give the same crunch and texture you’d get from breadcrumbs, without the added junk.

When preparing, keep in mind that if you have a small 4-cup food processor, you may need to pulse in batches. Then add all ingredients into a large bowl, mix, and form into a dough (this is what I did).

Pulse the ingredients just enough to break down, but not to purée. Leaving some chunks in the dough will make a more textured meatball in the end. Much more pleasant for eating!

*If you prefer a large processor, I recommend the Cuisinart 8-cup Food Processor

Chickpea Meatballs and Spaghetti with Homemade Marinara Sauce | Vegan | Gluten Free | Soy Free | Oil Free
Dinner Time

I hope you enjoy my take on the Italian classic spaghetti and meatballs. This vegan version – Chickpea Meatballs and Spaghetti with Homemade Marinara – makes a large meal, so you should have plenty of leftovers.

To save time during dinner time, make the meatballs or marinara ahead of time. The chickpeas and cooled marinara sauce will keep fresh in the fridge for up to 7 days or the freezer for one month.

Chickpea Meatballs and Spaghetti with Homemade Marinara Sauce | Vegan | Gluten Free | Soy Free | Oil Free
Before You Go

Do you love chickpeas? If so, try out my Crunchy Greek Roasted Chickpeas that are seasoned with my Easy Homemade Greek Seasoning.

Not feeling Italian tonight? No problem. Make tonight Taco Night and try my Chipotle Pinto Bean Tacos with Creamy Avocado Sauce.

Enjoy!

Chickpea Meatballs and Spaghetti with Homemade Marinara Sauce | Vegan | Gluten Free | Soy Free | Oil Free

chickpea meatballs and spaghetti with homemade marinara

chickpea meatballs and spaghetti with homemade marinara

Prep Time
Total Time 
20 minutes
50 minutes
Prep Time:
20 minutes
Total Time: 
50 minutes
Servings:
4
Cuisine:
vegan
Category:
entree
Diet:
gluten free, soy free, dairy free
Author:
plant based scotty

ingredients :

  • Homemade Marinara:

12 oz spaghetti noodles

2 28oz cans whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano brand if available)

1 large yellow onion, diced

8 small cloves garlic, minced (or 4 large cloves or 4 tsp packaged minced garlic)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

2 tbsp fresh oregano + 1 tbsp dried (sub fresh with 1 tbsp dried)

1 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

2 tbsp oil (sub with 2 tbsp water if oil free)

2 bay leaves (optional)

  • Chickpea Meatballs:

1 flax egg*

1 16oz can chickpeas, rinsed and strained (or 1.5 cups cooked)

1 small white onion, diced (or 1/2 of large onion)

3/4 cups whole raw almonds

3 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tbsp fresh basil, minced (sub for 1.5 tsp dried)

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp pepper

notes :

-This Homemade Marinara Sauce yields 6 cups.

*1 tbsp flaxseed meal + 2.5 tbsp water

**If your using a small food processor, only pulse almonds, chickpeas, and onions. Then, add all ingredients into large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon or your hands hands.

***When flipping meatballs, use care as they may stick slightly to parchment paper.

****If you use an immersion blender, pulse until chunky, rather than puréed.

-Want the meatballs, but don’t want to make the marinara? Simply substitute for store-bought marinara sauce.

directions :

  1. Make your flax egg for the meatballs and set aside. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. For the marinara sauce, heat a large rimmed skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add in diced yellow onion and cook for 15 minutes, until soft. While the onions cook, start preparing your chickpea meatballs.
  3. Heat a separate small skillet over medium high heat. Sauté white onion until browned, 3-5 minutes. While those sauté, place almonds in a food processor and pulse a coupe of times until broken down into small chunks.
  4. Now add the sautéed onions and the rest of the meatball ingredients (including your flax egg) into your food processor. Pulse several times until a rough dough forms**.
  5. Once processed, use your hands (alternatively you could use an ice cream scoop) to scoop out a golf ball-sized chunk and form into a ball. Place each meatball onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper (recipe yields about 16 meatballs). Bake in the oven for 30 minutes flipping once.***
  6. Back to your sauce - once your onion for the sauce is softened, add all ingredients (expect for fresh oregano) into the skillet and mash tomatoes with a potato masher, fork, or pulse with an immersion blender****. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. While the meatballs bake and sauce simmers, fill a large pot with water and cook spaghetti noodles according to package. Drain and set aside.
  8. (Skip to next step if omitting fresh oregano) Stir in fresh oregano to the sauce and simmer for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  9. Place your noodles in a large pasta bowl or plate and top with sauce and chickpea meatballs. Enjoy!

notes :

-This Homemade Marinara Sauce yields 6 cups.

*1 tbsp flaxseed meal + 2.5 tbsp water

**If your using a small food processor, only pulse almonds, chickpeas, and onions. Then, add all ingredients into large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon or your hands hands.

***When flipping meatballs, use care as they may stick slightly to parchment paper.

****If you use an immersion blender, pulse until chunky, rather than puréed.

-Want the meatballs, but don’t want to make the marinara? Simply substitute for store-bought marinara sauce.

Chickpea Meatballs and Spaghetti with Homemade Marinara Sauce | Vegan | Gluten Free | Soy Free | Oil Free
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8 Comment(s)

  1. Nicholas Jenkin
    September 14, 2018

    I’ve been missing Italian food from my diet for some time, because any attempt to approach it from what I knew as an omnivore failed. This recipe works extremely well. The marinara sauce is full of flavour and highly savoury. Having tried this recipe twice, I found that I achieved a better result with the meatballs by using half and half, almonds and walnuts. The meatballs held together better that way. Perhaps the almonds we get in UK just don’t have as much oil in them as those in USA? Including the walnuts produced a texture that worked for me and meant the cooked meatballs did not crumble under the fork, as has been the case using purely almonds. This recipe has been totally inspiring.

    1. Scotty
      September 14, 2018

      Interesting about the half/half combo of almonds and walnuts. Glad this recipe inspired you!

  2. Paige
    September 25, 2018

    WOAH. If you’re thinking of making these, do it. Like the best Thanksgiving stuffing you’ve ever had in the form of a meaty, guilt-free ball. I made the meatballs to go with cauliflower alfredo, but they’d be awesome with marinara, pesto, or in a sub. Looking forward to making these again! Thanks Scotty!

    1. Scotty
      September 26, 2018

      Thanks a bunch Paige and glad you could use them in your own recipe. So happy you enjoyed these!

  3. Regina Harlow
    December 10, 2018

    I’m trying this tonight for the first time. Your recipe did not specify to drain or not drain the chickpeas so I did not drain them. I had to add a cup of flour to the chickpea meatballs just to hold them together for baking. Did I miss something? They should taste great anyway, just wondered for next time.

    Thanks.

    1. Scotty
      December 11, 2018

      Hi Regina. I’m so sorry I did not include that. I will make that correction to the recipe. Thank you for sharing this with me and I hope you consider trying these again with the updated directions.

  4. Kelly`
    January 12, 2019

    This spaghetti sauce is to die for! I use it on my zoodles all of the time. So so yummy.

    As for the meatballs…they were decent. I had to add some water in order for my blender to be able to blend them up so that might have affected them a bit.

    1. Scotty
      January 12, 2019

      Happy to hear you enjoyed the sauce. Also, good to know about the meatballs to improve my recipes in the future.

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Learn How Delicious It Can Be Can To Transition to a Plant-Based Diet

Hey there, I'm Scotty. I help people reach there health goals eating a plant based diet. I'm a sucker for anything peanut butter and love a good red blend.

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