Before I stopped eating eggs and dairy, this dish was my favourite meal to order from a high-street food chain. Deceptively simple and packed full of green and garlicy goodness, it looks like a Dr. Seuss take on spaghetti and meatballs when served with noodles.
To veganise the recipe, the buttery base sauce is swapped out for oil, in the manner that you’d typically make a classic aglio e olio dish, and the eggs and cheese in the spinach balls are replaced with cornflour and a little extra nutmeg, plus some refrigeration to help them stay together while frying. I’ll often use vegan parmesan (like this one from Tesco) when making this dish, but I’ve left it out the recipe because it isn’t the most readily available ingredient for everybody. Use about 10g in the spinach balls and as much as you like to garnish if you’re adding cheese.
Total time: 35 minutes
– 300g dried pasta
– 600g young spinach leaves
– 1 large garlic clove, crushed
– ¾ tsp grated nutmeg
– 50g breadcrumbs
– Olive oil for shallow frying
– 4 tbsp cornflour (or more as needed)
– ½ tsp baking powder
– 6 tbsp olive oil
– 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
– 1 fresh red chilli finely chopped
– 300g grated courgette
Wilt the spinach leaves in boiling, salted, water for around 2 minutes, then tip into a sieve to cool and drain. Squeeze out all of the remaining water using kitchen towel, then chop roughly with a sharp knife. Grab a large mixing bowl and combine the spinach, cornflour, garlic, nutmeg, breadcrumbs and baking powder together and roll the combination into 2-3cm balls. Sit them on a plate sprinkled with cornflour, cover, and pop them in the freezer for around 15-20 minutes.
Heat enough oil in a large pan to shallow fry the spinach balls, it should take a few minutes on each side for them to brown up. At the same time, cook the pasta in salted water as instructed until al dente. Set the spinach balls on some kitchen towel when cooked to absorb any excess oil.
While the other ingredients are cooking, make the sauce by heating the oil in a large saucepan and adding the garlic, chilli and courgettes and stirring for around 3 minutes. Seasoning to taste.
Combine and serve, glugging a little extra virgin olive oil and vegan parmesan on top if you have them handy.