I don’t know why, but I love homemade “meat” replicas. Which is weird because when I phased out processed meat replacements, I said to myself I didn’t become vegetarian to eat mock meat. But I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to homemade fake meat and patties. One of my most popular posts on my website is the Meatball Shop lentil meatballs, so I know I’m not alone. I can’t speak for others, but I like making homemade “meat” and patties because although it’s often called vegetarian meat, it is really whole foods mashed together, seasoned and either fried or baked. It’s a complex flavor and an easy substitute or replacement in a meal that needs protein or to put in place of a recipe I might like that has meat.
Since I was getting a lot of zucchini from my CSA, I thought I would try meatballs. Already a huge fan of zucchini fritters, I thought I would try something different to mix it up. I ended up making two different zucchini meatballs, each with different fillings and spices, one baked and one fried.
I liked both of these meatballs. The baked meatballs were less oily and the individual flavors stood out more. The breadcrumbs were good but the zucchini keeps this ball moist, and the seasonings and flavors are very traditional for a meatball. But I really liked the cheese and mint in the fried meatball. It added a nice contrast to the breadcrumbs and zucchini. These meatballs are really good with pasta, sautéed greens or even in a meatball sandwich.
Next time I am going to bake the fried meatballs and give that a try. I loved doing the side-by-side taste test and might have to do this more often in the future.
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 3 medium zucchini, chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 hot green chili, chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped cilantro or flat leaf parsley
- 1 egg
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- Mix all of the above together and roll into little balls.
- Bake at 375 degrees until browned, about 20-30 minutes.
- 3 medium zucchini, chopped
- 1 cup Italian cheese blend, shredded
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- Small bunch fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (about 2-3 tablespoons)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil, for frying
- 2 cups breadcrumbs for coating
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the chopped zucchini, bring back to a boil and cook for 4 minutes. Drain the excess water from the zucchini. Transfer the zucchini to a sheet pan and allow to cool. Squeeze out the excess water from the boiled zucchini.
- In a mixing bowl add the zucchini, cheeses, fresh mint leaves, eggs and bread crumbs. Mix well until the ingredients are evenly distributed. With your hands, shape the meatballs into the size of golf balls. Coat the meatballs in bread crumbs.
- Heat olive oil in a deep frying pan. Gently place the meatballs into the hot oil and let fry until golden and crispy. Transfer to a plate lined with an absorbent paper towel to drain the excess oil.