Spaghetti and beanballs: A delicious recipe from Veganomicon


Today I’m sharing a favourite recipe from the excellent cookbook Veganomicon: Spaghetti and beanballs. This meal is humble, delicious, and surprisingly easy. Pasta is always a crowd pleaser, and the beanballs are extremely tasty and satisfying. Pasta, understated sauce, and baked balls of mashed red kidney beans come together for a veritable vege feast. If you’re planning on making this – and I really do recommend you do! – and are cooking from dried red kidney beans, just remember to get them soaking well before you want to start preparing the meal. The recipe calls for spaghetti pasta, but I find it works fine with any pasta style – see the rigatoni used below.


Recipe: Spaghetti beanballs (vegetarian and easy vegan; courtesy of ‘Veganomicon’)
Serves 3-4
Overnight preparation if you choose to use dried beans.
Preparation time: 30-40 minutes preparation + 25-30 minutes cooking

Marinara sauce

Things to go into the meal

– Spaghetti (or any pasta) x 250g approx. dried weight
– Water and salt for cooking

Marinara sauce:
– EVOO x 2 tbsp
– Garlic (fresh), minced x 4 cloves
– Crushed tomatoes x 1 can (440g approx)
– Thyme, dried x 1/4 tsp
– Oregano, dried x 1/4 tsp
– Salt x 1/2 tsp

– EVOO x 2-3 tbsp (approx: enough to coat baking tray)
– Red kidney beans, ready to eat (i.e. from can or dried and pre-cooked) x 3 cups*
– Soy sauce or tamari x 2 tbsp
– Tomato paste x 2 tbsp
– EVOO x 2 tbsp
– Garlic (fresh), minced x 2 cloves
– Lemon zest (fresh), grated x 1/4 tsp
– Breadcrumbs (or roughly chopped rustic bread**)
– Flour*** x 1/4 cup + extra
– Oregano, dried x 1/2 tsp
– Thyme, dried x 1/4 tsp

To serve:
– Grated Pecorino or Parmesan, to taste – omit for vegan dish

Things to do to make the meal

1. Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.

2. Prepare marinara sauce:

  • Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on medium-low.
  • Add the garlic and cook for around one minute, making sure the garlic doesn’t brown.
  • Add the rest of the marinara sauce ingredients, cover, bring to simmer over medium heat, then turn it down to low and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Keep warm.

3. While marinara sauce is on the stove, and begin making beanballs:

  • Prepare 1 large or 2 medium baking trays for the oven – give each a coating of olive oil and set in a handy place.
  • Mash the kidney beans in a big mixing bowl with potato masher and/or fork. You don’t want them to be completely smooth but all beans should be at least slightly mashed; you should still be able to recognize that they are kidney beans.
  • Add the soy sauce or tamari, tomato paste, the 2 tbsp of EVOO, minced garlic, lemon zest, breadcrumbs, flour, and herbs.
  • Mix together well with a fork, then knead with your hands to ensure a smooth consistency and dough-like texture.
  • Roll the beanballs mixture into walnut sized balls – keep them on the smaller side for the best texture. As you go, place each ball onto a prepared baking tray.
  • Once all balls are prepared, make sure each has a light coating of EVOO (drizzle more over the balls if needed).
  • Place into the pre-heated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Turn each of the balls after 15 minutes in the oven

4. Cook pasta, and assemble:

  • When the bean balls have gone into the oven, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil for the pasts.
  • When you have turned the balls mid-way through baking, place the pasta into the boiling water. You may wish to modify this step to get the timing as close as possible so that all the components are ready together.
  • Cook the pasta until al dente, drain, and place individual serves into bowls.
  • Distribute the marinara sauce across the served pasta – place a generous dollop on top of each next of spaghetti.
  • When nicely cooked, remove the beanballs from the oven and place 3-4 on top of the pasta and marinara sauce. If not serving to vegans, finely grate some Pecorino or Parmesan on top. Serve hot.


*3 cups ready to eat red kidney beans = approx 1.5 cups dried beans, soaked 6+ hours or over night, rinsed, brought to boil on stove swimming in plenty of water, boiled for 15 minutes, simmered for around an hour or until tender, drained+rinsed.
**Rustic bread = anything that isn’t “mighty white”! Some texture is needed here in place of the breadcrumbs.
***Spelt, wholemeal, unbleached – anything as long as it contains gluten. The flour serves to knit together the balls.