At this point, I’ll be writing from midway through my first week as a dietetic intern. In many ways, I spent the whole summer anticipating it; in other ways, the whole transition has snuck up on me.
One part of it that I’ve been well prepared for is getting back into a weekend batch meal prep routine. This was non-negotiable during my post-bacc and the first year of grad school, but I’ve gotten a lot more lax with it in the last few years, with flexible working hours and more time on my hands. Now’s the time to transition back into the groove of batch cooked grains and dressings and soups, along with simple, nutrient-dense dishes that are freezer friendly.
Before I went there, though, I wanted to create a few meals that felt fancy and festive. I did that last week, and this vegan spaghetti and meatball dish—featuring protein-rich tofu bulgur meatballs—was my favorite creation by far.
I’ve made vegan meatballs with lots of different ingredients, including beans, nuts, and quinoa, but I absolutely love what extra firm tofu does for their texture! The resulting meatballs hold their shape and crisp up perfectly, but they’ve got a pleasant lightness to them. They’re much less dense and dry than most of the bean or bean/nut/grain balls I’ve tried, which makes them especially good for piling over a hot plate of pasta.
Most of the tofu meatball recipes I’ve seen call for breadcrumbs. When I was testing these, I wondered if bulgur wheat might be similar enough in texture to work in the recipe. It’s one of my favorite grains, and it’s a little richer in protein and more nutritious than most breadcrumbs. I’m happy to say that it was a total success; I love the consistency of these balls, and the bulgur is in part to thank for it.
In the last few months I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of Nasoya’s products to create new-to-me tofu-based recipes. I’ve discovered tofu dumplings, among other products, but this time it was nice to create a meal with Nasoya’s extra firm tofu, which is already a staple food in my home.
I did discover the brand’s new twin pack, which allows you to use either ~7-8 or ~15 ounces of tofu at a time; usually when you open up an extra firm tofu pack, you’re then tasked with using the whole 15 ounces, which may or may not work for you if you’re cooking for one. It’s great to be able to adjust the quantity that gets opened, and even though I used all of the tofu this time around, I’m happy to have options.
I based the seasonings for the balls on the lentil keftede from Power Plates, which are one of my favorite components from the books: onion and garlic powder, nutritional yeast, salt. I also added oregano and rosemary, along with fresh parsley.
Much as I intended this to feel like a fancy supper—a date night recipe, so to speak—it’s actually quite easy to make. You don’t have to sauté any onion or other ingredients for the meatballs: you simply process them in the food processor, then roll and bake them. You can definitely use a store-bought marinara for the pasta, and a store-bought vegan parmesan of choice (if you’d like to DIY, I love my walnut herb parm here).
And, as nice as the meatballs are for a special occasion, they’d actually be a pretty great thing to meal prep. I can imagine serving them in a bowl, over veggies and a grain with marinara on top, as an appetizer for friends, or even packing a few of them up as a snack. Thanks to the tofu, they’d be both a savory and a protein-rich snack option on the go.
- 3/4 cup dry bulgur wheat*
- 15 ounces Nasoya extra firm tofu
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon to taste freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary or thyme
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
- 2 teaspoons ground flax seed
- For serving: Cooked pasta and marinara sauce of choice walnut herb parmesan or another vegan parm of choice
Place the bulgur and 2 cups water into a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 13-15 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Remove the bulgur from heat. Allow it to rest for a few minutes, fluff it with a fork, and then allow it to cool for 15 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 375F and line two baking sheets with parchment. You can spray the parchment with a vegetable oil spray to prevent the meatballs from sticking.
Remove the tofu from packaging and drain it of excess water. Add it, along with the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary, vinegar, and parsley, to a food processor fitted with the S blade. Process till smooth. Add the parsley and pulse to combine the herb evenly into the tofu mixture.
Transfer the cooked bulgur and tofu into a large mixing bowl, along with the ground flax. Mix well with your hands. Shape the mixture into balls about 1 inch in diameter; you should get about 35-40 from the mixture.** Transfer the balls to the baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until browning and crispy.
Serve the meatballs over your favorite pasta, along with marinara sauce, or however you like!
**Recipe can be halved.
Can’t get over the texture of these meatballs! They’re destined to be a new favorite around here for sure. As I was making the recipe, I thought about how, at one point in time, tofu meatballs would have struck me as a totally offbeat notion, but I’ve come to see how versatile tofu is as a base ingredient for just about anything. When I tasted the tofu mixture before adding it to the bulgur, it occurred to me that I’ve never made a dip or spread with extra firm tofu, which is kind of crazy. And soon to be changed ?
As for the week itself, it’s an adjustment to be sure, but I’m already learning a lot, and I’ll have more reflections and thoughts to share by the time this weekend rolls around. Till then, wishing you a great week—possibly with a comfort food pasta supper thrown into the mix.
This post is sponsored by Nasoya. All opinions are my own, and I love this go-to brand of tofu and other creative soy products! Thanks for your support.