Dreaming of Spaghetti and (Meatless) Meatballs

Ricotta polpette, vegetarian Swedish meatballs and plant-based meatballs.

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By Tejal Rao

I love spaghetti and meatballs — making it, eating it, talking about it. That’s part of why I began obsessing over Anna Francese Gass’s new recipe for ricotta polpette before it was even published.

Anna’s polpette are essentially ricotta dumplings, made from nothing more than cheese, bread crumbs and eggs, seasoned with parsley, salt and pepper, and cooked in a basil- and garlic-infused tomato sauce. In other words, they’re basic. But they’re also quite luxurious, and would be absolutely ideal spooned over a heap of hot spaghetti that’s been loosened up with butter, with a salad dressed in a lemony vinaigrette on the side.

I can’t imagine a cozier Friday night dinner at home right now. Though if you’re looking for a less cheesy meatball, I tried this Swedish-inspired one from Kay Chun last fall. It’s made from a mix of mushrooms, chickpeas and bulgur wheat that would also be great simmered in tomato sauce. If you cook with plant-based meat substitutes, you could try Melissa Clark’s vegan meatballs in marinara, which you can mix and broil really quickly before dousing them in the sauce.

If you’re not in the mood for meatballs, and you’re still seeing eggplant at the market, take a look at Sue Li’s sweet and sour eggplant. Making garlic chips is a two-for-one technique that will leave you with delicious, garlic-infused oil to sauté the eggplant in, as well as crisp, golden chips to garnish the finished dish.

And while we’re on the subject of cool home-cooking techniques, let’s talk about Zainab Shah’s sheet-pan paneer tikka! Zainab coats pieces of paneer, peppers and onion in a quick yogurt marinade seasoned with some spices, ginger and garlic paste, and then roasts the cheese and vegetables so that everything cooks evenly.

The key is to follow her instructions to set two racks in the oven at different heights, so you can roast the paneer and vegetables for a little bit, and then to move everything closer to the top of the oven to broil for a touch of serious color and crispy edges. It’s a really smart move, and yes, you can easily substitute cheese with tofu and use vegan yogurt in the marinade. (Use extra-firm tofu. Drain it well. And pat it dry.)

Ricotta Polpette in Tomato Sauce

Go to the recipe.

Sweet and Sour Eggplant With Garlic Chips

Go to the recipe.

Sheet-Pan Paneer Tikka

Go to the recipe.

One More Thing

I met a friend in Topanga, Calif., over the weekend, and we hiked into the canyon behind her home, following a path lined with black sage and wild fennel. It was perfect, except for one thing: I forgot to pack a snack!

I wished for a bag of tender dried apricots, some chewy-edged muffins full of ginger and molasses, oat-and-coconut bars made with almond butter and dried cherries, or a few potato chip-chocolate chip cookies to share. What’s your best go-to hiking snack? Please share!

Thanks for reading The Veggie, and see you next week.

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