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
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 1/2 cups very finely chopped mushrooms (portobello caps, shiitake or cremini)
- 1/2 cup minced yellow onion
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. soy sauce (sub Worcestershire sauce)
- 1 egg, whisked
- 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 2 Tbsp. milk
- 1/4 tsp. each kosher salt and black pepper
Spanish Olive-Tomato Sauce
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. each kosher salt and black pepper
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced Castelvetrano olives plus more for garnish
- Prepare Mushroom Meatballs: Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add mushrooms and onion; cook 5 minutes, until soft. Add garlic, thyme, and oregano; cook 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool 10 minutes. Add soy sauce, egg, oats, breadcrumbs, milk, salt, and pepper; stir to combine. Refrigerate mixture for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with foil. Gently form mushroom mixture into 10 to 12 mini (golfball-sized) meatballs. Place meatballs on baking sheet; bake for for 15 to 17 minutes, until golden-brown.
- Prepare Spanish Olive-Tomato Sauce: Heat oil in the same skillet you used for the mushrooms over medium heat. Add onions; cook 5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, broth, paprika, sugar, 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. Add meatballs to sauce, and sprinkle olives and feta cheese overtop. Serve over pasta or orzo, couscous, or with crusty bread.