07 March 2012

It's time once again for the Crazy Cooking Challenge!  In this challenge, all the participants make and blog about the same dish each month.  Each blogger is to scour other blogs for a unique version of whatever that month's dish is.  The goal is to highlight and promote personal food blogs. This month's assigned dish was spaghetti and red sauce.  So we were to find a unique spaghetti recipe, make it, and blog about it.


This challenge gave me an opportunity to try something I had been wanting to for a while now.  I saw a recipe for Lentil Spaghetti Sauce and put it on my "must make" list.  We are not vegetarian, but try to eat meatless one night a week.  I get bored easily, so I'm always on the lookout for interesting and different meatless main dishes.  I made Lentil Tacos once, and my meat-loving husband raved about them, saying he loved them just as much, if not more, than their ground beef counterpart.  So I figured the lentil spaghetti sauce would be just as successful.  I was going to make that for this challenge, but then I was sidetracked by another recipe in the same category (actually on the same board in my Pinterest account).  Similar idea, but with meatless meatballs instead of a meaty sauce. The balls are made of chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), and are like an Italian version of falafel.  My husband loves falafel, so I was sure it was going to be a hit.  The original recipe is from Budget Bytes.  Here's my version.

Chickpea “Meat”balls and Marinara

2 (15 oz.) cans chickpeas, drained
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, grated
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp salt
1 large egg
¼ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 (6 oz.) cans tomato paste
2 (15 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp brown sugar
1½ cups water
1 tsp salt, or to taste
6 servings hot cooked spaghetti
Fresh basil, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place chickpeas in a food processor. Pulse until it forms a rough paste.  Transfer to a bowl and addso add the shallot, garlic, basil, oregano, salt, egg, bread crumbs, and 2 tbsp olive oil. Mix until thoroughly combined.  Measure out one tablespoon portions and roll them into a ball. Continue until all of the mixture has been made into balls.

Place balls on a baking sheet.  Place in oven and bake about 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the chopped onion and cook until the onions have softened.  Add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, brown sugar, and water. Stir the mixture until it is thoroughly combined. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Taste and add salt as needed.

Serve the chickpea balls over spaghetti with the sauce spooned over top. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.

Makes 6 servings, 6 chickpea balls each.

I changed a few things.  First, I changed up the ingredients in the balls a little bit.  I swapped out fresh parsley for dried basil and oregano.  We're not parsley fans.  I also omitted the Parmesan because my daughter is allergic to dairy.  I also added olive oil and decreased the bread crumbs because they seemed a little dry.  Secondly, I baked the balls instead of pan frying them.  I ALWAYS bake meatballs.  It's so much easier and they actually turn out round!  When I have tried them on the stovetop in the past, they either fall apart on me or get all funky-shaped.  I bake my balls on stoneware and they come out perfectly every time.  

I got a little impatient rolling out the balls, so they got increasingly larger as I went.  If you use the tablespoon to measure them out, you will probably get 36.

The only other major thing I changed was that I doubled the sauce recipe.  I didn't when I made them, but we found that there wasn't enough sauce.  I actually busted out a jar from the pantry to get us through!  So I would definitely make more sauce.

Other than the sauce issue, my family really liked this dish.  It's a great addition to my meatless main rotation.  And it's great for families on a budget, as each can of chickpeas cost 84 cents, while a pound of ground beef is going for about $3.99 these days.

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  1. melissamaynard_826March 7, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    What an awesome idea!  I'm just getting into chickpeas, and this sounds so interesting :)

  2. This is a great recipe. My daughter is Vegan and would love both the meatballs and the sauce, so I'm sending it on to her! I'm @28 so come visit when you can.

  3. I love the idea of the chickpea "meatballs." Sounds yummy and filling!

  4. I have to try these.  I love chickpeas, and am always looking for new ideas for meatless Monday.  If you have a chance, check out my entry:  http://cupcakesandkalechips.com/2012/03/07/slow-cooker-tomato-veggie-sauce-with-sausages-crazy-cooking-challenge/

  5. I recently discovered my love of chickpeas!  I'll have to try this sauce!

  6. The Undomestic GoddessMarch 7, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    What a perfect idea! We try to do meatless once a week, so this is going on the "To Make" list.

  7. We really love chickpeas (chichi beans in Italiano).  Will pin this recipe immediately.

    I hope you'll stop by and visit my CCC - #75 Spaghetti



  8. I absolutely LOVE chickpeas, so this is a MUST! Yum!


  9. Sounds yummy. I love chickpeas - don't know if I could get this past the hubby though. #18

  10. Lesa, you always find the best recipes to try. And to save money, who wouldn't love that! I find I plan my meals around what I find on sale these days. May have to try this then sneak them into the sauce and see if anyone notices! Great choice!

  11. Just had to pop on over and check out the chickpea meatballs, Lesa!  I love the idea!  Also love your Penzey's Spice bumper sticker at the bottom of your blog ... I have that same one.  :-)  It's my motto.  Thanks for sharing this creative recipe!
    Tracey @ The Kitchen is My Playground

  12. Italian falafel, love it!  You meal looks and sounds delicious.

    If you haven't already, I'd love for you to check out my CCC entry:   Tomato Sauce with Onion & Butter.Lisa~~Cook Lisa Cook  

  13. I love seeing clever meat alternatives like this one.  What a fabulous meal!

  14. I really love this kind of food and yes I am sure if given a chance to taste them all then i would probably be doing those kind of foods here.

    Thanks, buy Tradition & Cultural Items online