These cheesy tofu meatballs are super quick and easy to prepare, and so full of flavour!
Is there anything better than a plate of spaghetti and meatballs? With plenty of rich tomato sauce, and some garlic bread on the side. It’s one of those dinners that’s simple, but oh-so-satisfying.
Luckily, we vegetarians can enjoy meatballs too! These baked tofu meatballs couldn’t be easier to make, and they’re packed with cheesy flavour. I promise, even tofu sceptics will enjoy this one!
I’m never sure whether ‘meatballs’ is the right word when you’re talking about the vegetarian version – but ‘vegetarian balls’ just sounds indecent, so vegetarian meatballs it is. If Wikipedia says I can use the word for a meatless version, that’s good enough for me.
Most vegetarian meatballs seem to be made from beans or lentils, but as much as I love lentil meatballs, sometimes I fancy something a bit ‘meatier’. These tofu meatballs are a great alternative to meat!
These veggie meatballs are so quick to make. Start by blitzing up some tofu with a slice of bread, and a few sprigs of fresh basil for flavour.
Technically, you should press your tofu first to get rid of any excess moisture, but I’ll admit I’m often a bit lax on the pressing. I always used to cut my tofu into thin slices and press it under some heavy pans for a good half hour, sandwiched between some clean tea towels… but these days, all I can be bothered to do is cut the block in half and squeeze it in my hands between some sheets of kitchen paper.
Honestly, I’ve never found that pressing tofu makes an enormous difference to the end result. As I detailed in my ‘how to cook tofu‘ blog post, pressed tofu is slightly better when you directly compare it to unpressed tofu – but 99% of the time, you just need to make sure your tofu isn’t swimming with excess water. Just give it a good squeeze for a few seconds and you’ll be fine.
Don’t you just love it when I give you an excuse to be lazy?
Next, just add some grated cheddar cheese (use the mature stuff for more flavour!), and an egg to bind. I like a pinch of garlic granules too! Blitz once more, and that’s your tofu meatball mixture done – it really is quick and easy!
Another fab thing about these meatballs is that they’re baked rather than fried – so not only are they on the healthier side (look away from all that cheese for one sec…), they’re also totally hands-off while they’re cooking.
Just roll the mixture into balls, spread them out on a well-oiled baking tray, and stick them in the oven for half an hour while you concentrate on your pasta and sauce. When they come out, they’ll be nice and crispy around the edges – as the cheese crisps up, it gives these meatballs heaps of flavour! Crispy cheese is heaven.
Rich tomato sauce
Of course, no meatballs are complete without a rich tomato sauce to serve them in.
I’ll be honest – I totally cheated this time. I used a shop-bought tomato sauce. Don’t take away my food blogging licence*!
Of course, you can make homemade tomato sauce if you prefer – I just wanted to focus my recipe on the meatballs themselves. Whichever route you take, you’ll end up with a tasty, satisfying dinner.
(*We don’t really have licences, just in case anyone was confused.)
You may notice that I resisted adding any additional cheese on top of my meatballs and tomato sauce. This is pretty unheard of for me – usually I think pasta only exists to be smothered with a layer of melty cheese.
But actually, the tofu meatballs themselves are nice and cheesy, so they do fine without any extra cheese sprinkled on top. And if even I think that, it must be true.
The cheese helps to give these meatballs their gorgeous taste (there’s no denying that tofu doesn’t have much of a flavour on its own), and they contribute to the crispy coating which makes them all the more satisfying to bite into.
Have I convinced you that these tofu meatballs are worth a try? If you’re looking for a recipe to convert a tofu hater, this is definitely one to try!
Cheesy tofu meatballs
- 400 g (~14oz) firm tofu, drained
- 35 g bread (1 medium slice)
- Few sprigs fresh basil
- Black pepper
- 1/2 tsp garlic granules
- 100 g mature cheddar cheese, grated (~ 1 cup when grated)
- 1 egg
- To serve: pasta and tomato sauce
- Press the tofu between two clean tea towels (or two double sheets of kitchen paper), to remove any excess liquid, then place in a food processor. Add the bread and fresh basil, along with a good pinch of salt and pepper, and blitz until finely chopped.
- Add the garlic granules, grated cheese and egg, and blitz again until well combined.
- Remove the blades from the food processor (important to make sure you don’t cut yourself!), then use clean hands to shape the mixture into meatballs. The exact number you can make depends on how large you make them – I made 18. Place the meatballs on a lined and greased baking tray, and bake at 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F) for around 30-40 minutes, until firm and golden brown.
- Serve with your favourite pasta and tomato sauce.
Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose. Information above is for 1/4 of the recipe, meatballs only.