August 13, 2010

Meatless meatball party, part 2

Welcome to part two of the month of meatless meatballs! This week, I'm reviewing one of the frozen products: Nate's Zesty Italian Meatless Meatballs. This is also where I shall reveal my secret recipe for amazing marinara sauce! Start getting excited now, people… it's really a great sauce.

But first, the review! Let's take a look at what the bag promised: "incredibly delicious flavor and a texture that rivals traditional meatballs", "try with pasta, stroganoff, Swedish meatball dishes, or goulash", "wholesome addition to gravies, tomato sauces, pesto, and sweet and sour sauces". Wow - this sounds like a great, all-purpose meatball. I had done a preliminary internet search for other people's opinions of these - overwhelmingly positive. But then again, the internet is full of mostly-positive reviews of fake meat. That's what I'm here for!

I'll tell you - right out of the bag, these looked very meatball-ish. I was pretty excited to cook them up and give them a taste. Again, I put them on a tray in the oven, un-sauced, at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Now, let's take a look at what my guest-reviewers thought:

April: Nice and crispy, poor flavor.
Dan: Nice crispness, but poor texture otherwise, flavor is weak.
Ginny: Crunchy, crusty outside - seems pretty bread-dough-like inside, texture-wise. Best with BBQ. Doesn't taste much like meat but pretty inoffensive taste.
Anonymous: Dry and crunchy, but good meatesque flavor. Like chewing meat hay. Most authentic appearance.

I thought the exterior was awesome - super crispy. The inside was definitely mushy, though. It was also very fragile - it didn't take much pressure to cause it to fall apart. One of the cooking directions suggested heating up the meatballs in the pot of sauce. I think this is a terrible idea. It would eliminate my favorite part of these (the crispy outside) and, I suspect, turn them into a big pot of mush mixed with sauce. It didn't have too much flavor on its own, which is why the package was able to suggest so many sauce possibilities - it's not going to fight with anything, so put whatever you want on it! I thought it tasted pretty great with the marinara sauce, only ok with the barbecue sauce, and it didn't really work with the Swedish meatball sauce. Possibly the Swedish sauce didn't have enough oomph to improve the meatless meatball. But again, great with the marinara, which is why I'm pairing this review with that recipe.

The experience:
Texture - crispy/crunchy on the outside, mushy in the middle
Flavor - not much going on there - nothing bad, but nothing good either

Final grade for this attempt: B+

Marinara Sauce (makes about 3 cups - enough to generously sauce a pound of pasta)

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
lots of minced garlic (I usually use more than most people would - I'd recommend starting with about a tablespoon (that's about three cloves) and work up from there until it is as garlicky as you'd like)
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
pinch or two of sugar, depending on how acidic your tomatoes are
salt and pepper, to taste
a pinch of red pepper flakes, if you like your sauce with a little kick (more flakes = more kick)

Just combine all the ingredients into a pot big enough to hold them all (I usually use my 2-quart saucepan, just to give it some room to bubble. Put it over low heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Let it simmer long enough for the flavors to meld, which should take at least 20 minutes, and then keep it over very low heat until the rest of your food is ready. If you're going to serve it with pasta, start the sauce first, then put your pot of water on for the pasta while the sauce is simmering.

This sauce also freezes well, so feel free to make a huge pot of it, and freeze the sauce in plastic bags (or whatever you'd like to freeze the sauce in) in serving-size quantities, then thaw as needed later. So simple, yet so tasty! You can also use fresh herbs, if that's your thing, but I find that dried is easier. You can also dice up some onion and saute that in a little bit of olive oil in the saucepan before adding the tomatoes, if you like onions. Really, this is just a basic starting point. Go crazy with it!


  1. I've had these before. I cooked them in an onion tomato sauce in the oven and put them out at a party. Everyone loved them. They went very quickly and I had to make a second batch, which also went quickly. I think the flavor and texture is awesome! My boyfriend and I can't get enough of this product.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. What do u think if gardein meatless meatballs?