Vegetarian mushroom meatballs in a Spanish-inspired tomato sauce with olives, feta, and herbs—A hearty, nutritious dish that is ready for your weeknight dinner rotation. Guys. We’re putting the fun in fungi today. And delivering the most insanely flavorful tomato sauce for all of your pasta-adjacent needs. It gives anything jarred on the shelf a serious run for its money.
And please don’t get mad at me for calling the balls “meatballs” when they are, in fact, meatless. I just found it a little off-putting to be calling them mushroom balls. Or even worse, veggie balls. You can only go so far with calling certain food items “balls” while still maintaining some appeal, y’know?Mushrooms amp up the meaty texture and savory flavor of these balls, while quick-cooking oats help build their fork-tender texture. You can either fry them in a skillet, or bake and broil them in the oven. Browning under the broiler helps achieve the golden-brown texture you’d expect from pan-searing, but it’s faster, neater (no oil splatters) and big-batch friendly.
I like to add a dash of soy sauce (or fish sauce if you’re not concerned with them being vegetarian) for added depth, plus plenty of herbs and a dash of red pepper flakes. If you like it fiery, feel free to double the dose, or omit it all if you don’t. Olives, feta, and paprika add a Spanish-inspired twist to the tomato sauce that adds delicious intrigue. What kind of of olives, you might ask? Castelvetranos. All the way. They’re not as biting or aggressively salty as most others, and instead offer a buttery, somewhat-fruity taste. Their firm texture is also superior to most other olive varieties that tend to be mushy and would get lost in a piping hot tomato sauce.
They are the Cadillac of olives. Enjoy these little show stoppers over pasta or your favorite whole grain, or stick them in a hoagie roll with some melted mozzarella for a sublime sandwich situation. They’re weeknight-friendly and sure to impress both vegetarians and omnivores alike.
Vegetarian Mushroom Meatballs in Spanish Olive-Tomato Sauce
- **Mushroom Meatballs**
- 4 tsp. olive oil divided
- 2 cups finely chopped portobello or shiitake mushroom caps
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme
- 1 Tbsp. fresh chopped oregano
- 1/2 tsp. soy sauce or fish sauce
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1 cup quick-cooking oats
- 2 Tbsp. milk
- 2 Tbsp. whole wheat breadcrumbs
- **Spanish Olive-Tomato Sauce**
- 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup lower-sodium vegetable broth
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. each crushed red pepper flakes kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced Castelvetrano olives plus more for garnish
- Heat 2 tsp. of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add mushrooms; cook 4 to 5 minutes, until golden. Add onions, reduce heat to medium. Cook 5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic, thyme, and oregano; cook 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool 10 minutes. Add soy (or fish) sauce, salt, pepper, egg, oats, and milk; stir to combine. Refrigerate mixture for 30 minutes. Stir in breadcrumbs. Form mixture into 12 mini meatballs.
- Either cook meatballs stovetop in a nonstick skillet coated with olive oil over medium heat, turning to brown all sides, until golden-brown, or bake meatballs on a foil-lined baking sheet at 375°F for 15 to 17 minutes, followed by 1 to 2 minutes under the broiler, until golden-brown.
- Prepare tomato sauce by heating remaining 2 tsp. olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add onions; cook 5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring often. Add tomatoes, broth, paprika, sugar, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper; bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 15 minutes, using a wooden spoon or potato masher to lightly crush tomatoes, until sauce thickens. Stir in feta cheese and olives. Add meatballs to sauce; garnish with additional herbs and olives, if desired. Serve over pasta, zucchini noodles, or grain of choice.