Nearly every Sunday, I grew up eating my mom’s homemade meatballs, pasta & sauce. Since then I’ve made turkey meatballs instead of ones based on high fat content chop meat. I figured I’d try to have a bigger impact on the health content by making it meatless while keeping it tasty.
Recently, I saw a post on social media of a similar meatless zucchini “meatballs,” but they didn’t provide the best instructions and had a lot of cheese. So I took the general idea of a zucchini meatball and ran with it. This is my version. On a scale of easy, medium or difficult, I’d say this recipe is medium because it’s so much easier with a food processor and not everyone has one. It’s possible with a box grater. It’ll just take longer, much more time and work.
1 1/4 1bs. zucchini
1/2 C breadcrumbs
1/4 C Pecorino Romano (or similar, remember Parmesan generally has more salt)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Parsley and basil to taste (fresh or dried)
Salt and pepper to taste (more pepper, less salt, remember the cheese has salt)
Olive oil spray of your choice
1. Wash and grate or shred the zucchini with the skin on. This is much easier if you have a food processor; however, it’s possible with a box grater.
2. The next few steps are all an attempt to remove the excess water that seems to primarily make up zucchini.
Before cooking it, press some water out. Next, put it in a frying pan (no oil needed) on medium heat stirring constantly (or with great consistency) for about 10 minutes. The quantity will reduce and much of the water will be removed.
Believe it or not, your zucchini can still have a lot of water in it. For this reason, transfer it to a colander or strainer (preferably a metal one with fine holes) and press more water out of the cooked zucchini.
Press the zucchini mixture between paper towels, clean cotton cloths or through a cheese cloth until nearly all excess water is gone and the zucchini is room temperature. You do not want to add an egg to this if it’s still warm.
3. If you’ve made meatballs in the past then this is where the general meatball ingredients come into play. In a medium bowl, add zucchini, one egg, breadcrumbs, grated cheese, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
4. Spray an oven pan with the oil of your choice. I use a Misto® so I can add my own olive oil rather than using the store bought sprayers that have chemicals to propel the oil out. Pre-heat oven to 375º.
5. Roll into balls about 1 inch thick and place onto tray. Spray a thin layer of oil on top of the balls. (Technically you could roll them around in the oil of your choice before baking them, but if we’re going for the healthier option here then let’s spray them to avoid using too much oil than is really necessary.)
6. Bake in a 375º oven for approximately 25 minutes. Since all ovens are different, check them around minute 18. If they stick to the pan, foil, or liner let them cool a bit and then remove them. At that point, they should come off with ease.
7. Serve over pasta or spaghetti squash with your favorite sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. Enjoy!