When you need a lighter version of the beloved meatballs for dinner, these full of mouth-poppin’ flavor Ratatouille Veggie Balls should do the trick.
I think what I really enjoyed the most – besides how perfectly tasty they were – was the satisfaction of “pulling the wool” over my kids eyes … as in “oh, aren’t these tasty ‘meatballs‘ kids? I’m so glad you all enjoy them. What’s that you say? More? Why of course, you can!” *Snicker-snicker, with a slight maniacal laugh thrown in for good measure* I pulled off parenting advanced, beautifully. This is the perfect example of “what they don’t know, won’t hurt them” and is indeed good for them. If I had said they were filled with veggies, oh the noses that would have wrinkled. Instead, they asked for more and loved them. Nice.
So in an effort to create a healthy, meatless option, I decided to pull together the classic flavors of Ratatouille – tomatoes, zucchini and onion – then I added in some panko to give it a bit of a bite along with some seasoning, baked them and oh the joy. So delicious and they make a wonderful Ratatouille Veggie Balls and pasta!
When making this recipe please, oh please understand that to get the best flavor, use fresh tomatoes and don’t cheat by substituting canned tomatoes. *Disclaimer: Now, if you’re in an absolute pinch and canned tomatoes are all you have to use, then they will work, but you have to make sure that you drain them really well.* I also recommend finely dicing the zucchini over grating it, but both work well. When dicing, you get not only a nice bite of zucchini, but it will not be as “watery” as grating the zucchini. If grating, adjust mixture if needed by adding more panko, so you will ensure a good “meatball” consistency.
- 2 Tbls Olive Oil
- 3 cups fresh Tomatoes, finely diced (About 2 large tomatoes)
- 3 cups Zucchini, finely diced or grated (About 1 large zucchini. I prefer dicing)
- 1/2 cup Red Onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves fresh Garlic, minced
- 1 Tbls dried Basil
- 2 tsp dried Oregano
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 - 3 fresh Basil, chopped
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Pepper
- 1 cup Panko, plain or Italian flavored bread crumbs
- 1 Egg, lightly whisked
- Cooking Spray, such as Olive Oil, Coconut or Canola (I use which ever one is closest at hand)
- Marinara Sauce, your favorite
- Parmesan, to garnish
- Fresh Basil, to garnish
- Pasta, which ever type you prefer
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Arrange cooking rack to be in the middle of oven. Line and/or spray your baking sheet with the cooking spray.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add the Olive Oil until hot. Toss in the finely diced Tomatoes, Zucchini, Onion and Garlic. Season with the Basil and Oregano. Saute until onions are softened, about 10 - 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
- Once the veggies are cooled, mix them together with the grated Parmesan, Basil, Salt & Pepper and Panko until everything is well incorporated
- Check taste at this point and adjust seasoning if needed.
- Add in the lightly whisked Egg and continue to mix until well combined.
- Using a 1 inch scoop or tablespoon, form 1 inch balls and place on prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart to allow for even cooking.
- Bake in the 375°F pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes or until starting to turn golden.
- Serve over your favorite pasta with a nice Marinara sauce, topped off with Parmesan cheese and fresh Basil to garnish, if desired.