A few weekends ago, we found an old bag of black-eyed peas wedged behind giant canisters of semolina flour and coarse ground-polenta. I promptly remembered these falafels-type patties we made once, baked and cooked in a rich tomato sauce tossed with pasta. I’ve wanted to make it again for a while now. For some reason, I kept waiting for a sunny day, then I forgot to get black-eyed peas, then I wanted to wait for juicy summer tomatoes at the market.
We made spaghetti with meatless balls for the first time a few years back while experimenting with baked falafels. The black-eyed pea balls are made in the same vein as these lentil falafels, with beans, tahini, veggies and spices. They’re similarly inspired by a deep-fried bean fritter popular in West Africa, we call them koose in Ghana.
The thing I’d almost forgotten about sunny summer weekends is how much activity we try to cram into it. Too much, if you ask me. Nevertheless, when it finally felt like summer again this weekend, I pulled out my long list of stuff I wanted to do, which included this spaghetti with meatless balls for our Sunday supper.
We started our weekend off picking up packages in Point Roberts and decided on an impromptu picnic on the beach. That sort of set the tone for the rest of our weekend – time spent outdoors and planning this meal – which ended up being dinner on Saturday. The black-eyed pea balls comes together quite quickly; we mixed in a dollop of Essie Spice’s Coco-for-Garlic for a warm savoury garlicky boost. Next time, I want to try some fresh basil as well. The sauce is a riff on Heidi Swanson’s aptly named 5 minute tomato sauce, a convenient tasty sauce with nice depth.
I’ve declared this the ideal summer weekend meal, it takes a little time to prepare but not so much that it’s onerous. It’s wonderfully hearty with deliciously rich and savoury flavours. There were leftover, which we’ll have for dinner during the week.
The meatless balls and tomato sauce can be made in advance, when you’re ready, cook the pasta and toss it with them together. We made gnocchi this weekend as well with purple potatoes – it pairs incredibly well with tomato sauce (more on that soon).
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water
- 1 cup dry black-eyed peas, soaked overnight in water, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 small red onion, chopped
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes (or to taste), optional
- 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil, softened, not in liquid form
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or a mix of dried basil, oregano & thyme)
- Pinch of chopped rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1-3 tablespoons oat flour (or whole spelt/whole wheat/all-purpose)
- Olive oil spray
- 16oz dry spaghetti
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 1/2 small red onion, chopped
- 3 -4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes (about 2.5 cups)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Chopped basil to garnish, optional
- Mix ground flaxseed and water in a small cup, set aside and let mixture thicken for at least 5 minutes
- Pulse black-eyed peas in a food processor until coarsely ground
- Add onions, garlic, paprika, crushed pepper, tahini, coconut oil, seasoning, rosemary and baking soda
- Process until it forms a thick paste and mixture is almost smooth
- Add oat flour, a tablespoon at time until mixture holds together and still fairly moist
- Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary and refrigerate mixture for 30 – 60 minutes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper
- Using your hand, scoop about 1 tablespoon of bean mixture, roll into a ball and place on the prepared baking sheet, repeat with the rest of the mixture
- Spray balls with a light coating of olive oil and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until golden brown (cover with foil if they’re browning too quickly).
- Cook pasta in salted water according to package instructions, drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta’s cooking water
- Meanwhile, heat olive over medium-low heat in a large skillet or saucepan
- Add pepper flakes, red onion and garlic, sauté until fragrant and onions are soft
- Stir in tomatoes and cook for 1 – 2 minutes, add half of the meatless balls, lower heat and let sauce simmer for 3 – 5 minutes
- Add pasta to sauce and toss to coat, Add pasta cooking liquid, 1/4 cup at a time as needed to loosen sauce and coat pasta.
- Stir in lemon zest, taste and add salt (if necessary)
- Serve with freshly ground pepper, remaining meatless balls and garnish with chopped basil