Vegan Meatballs (Mushroom “Neat” Balls)

I cut this recipe from Vegetarian Times magazine about 10 years ago (am I really this old?!) and it sat untried in my recipe binder until I finally got around to “veganizing” it this year. I’ve since made it a few times because it’s just so delicious and I can freeze half the batch, which is a great way to punch-up plain pasta when I’m in a rush. The trick to this is to use Arborio (risotto) rice, which makes everything “gluey” and stick together. I’m sure that there are more protein-rich versions out there, but these are worthy of the carbs and good if you’re looking to avoid soy. If you’re in a hurry, you can use store-bought pasta sauce, but I have to say that this one is really lovely, and doesn’t reall  take that much time.

Vegan Meatballs (Mushroom "Neat" Balls) - Gluten-Free


August 29, 2011 – I had some leftover “neat” balls in the freezer and they came in handy for a quick dinner tonight. I used whole wheat pasta, half a jar of store-bought pasta sauce, and sprinkled half a bag of baby spinach into the pasta before topping with the neat balls, which I had defrosted and quickly reheated on the stove. Yum!

Vegan Meatballs (Mushroom "Neat" Balls) - Gluten-Free

5.0 from 8 reviews
Spaghetti & Vegan Meatballs (Mushroom “Neat” Balls)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 5
Ingredients for Tomato Sauce:
  • 4 (28-oz.) cans whole peeled Italian-style tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 small onions
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • ¾ tsp. dried oregano
  • ⅛ tsp. crushed red chili pepper
  • ¼ tsp Italian seasoning
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • salt, to taste
Ingredients for Neat Balls:
  • 2⅔ cups vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 lb. cremini or baby bella mushrooms (should make 2 cups when finely chopped)
  • 4 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 vegan egg (Ener-G egg replacer works great)
  • 1 cup dried bread crumbs (use gluten-free, as needed)
  • ⅓ cup almond/nutritional yeast mix (half nutritional yeast, half finely milled almonds)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
Directions for Tomato Sauce:
  1. In a large bowl, blend the tomatoes with a blender or hand-blender.
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic, and cook until softened but not browned, 2-3 mins. Add oregano, crushed red chili pepper, and Italian seasoning, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir-in the crushed tomatoes and sugar, and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste and reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Directions for Neat Balls
  1. In a large saucepan, bring broth to a simmer over high heat. Add rice, reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender and mixture is creamy, 18 to 20 minutes. Stir almost constantly during las 5 minutes of cooking. Transfer to large bowl.
  2. In food processor, pulse mushrooms in batches until finely chopped.
  3. In large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2-3 mins. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, 3-5 mins. Add to bowl with rice; let cool.
  4. Preheat oven to 400F. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.
  5. Add vegan egg, breadcrumbs, almond/nutritional yeast mix, parsley, salt and pepper to cooled rice mixture and mix well. Form mixture into about 24 oval-shaped nuggets, each about 2 by 1.5 inches.
  6. In clean large nonstick skillet, heat remaining 2 tsp olive oil over medium high heat; tilt to coat bottom. Add half the nuggets and cook until browned on one side, about 2 mins. Turn nuggets over onto prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining nuggets.
  7. Bake until nuggets are browned and firm, 15-20 mins.
  8. If you haven't already done so, boil your pasta while the balls are baking.
  9. Put 3-5 balls on each bowl of pasta with sauce, serve hot.
Modified from Vegetarian Times magazine, January 2000.


  1. Adonya Wong 21 September, 2015
  2. Tracey 2 March, 2016
    • Angela Thompson 2 May, 2016