I love this recipe because the ingredients are simple and clean, but the final product is flavorful and juicy. You won’t miss the meat with these savory mushroom-based balls because they are hearty and protein-packed. These veggie meatballs are so versatile, you can serve them on top of practically anything from pastas to pizzas to sandwiches!
Technique tip: The meatball mixture can be made in advance, shaped into balls and kept frozen until ready to cook. Freezing the veggie meatballs before cooking them helps them to hold their shape, considering they do not contain any egg to bind them together.
Swap option: Instead of brown rice, you can use farro or barely.
Special equipment: Food processor (not to be confused with a blender).
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for pan-frying
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice, cooled
- 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Canola oil for pan frying
- 4 to 8 slider buns or dinner rolls
- 1 cup store-bough tomato sauce, heated through
- 1 cup store-bought or homemade pesto sauce
- Handful fresh basil, for assembly
1. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and cook onions and mushrooms until soft and lightly browned. Add garlic and cook a few more minutes. Transfer to a food processor. Reserve skillet for later use.
2. Add cooled brown rice, breadcrumbs, flour, basil, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to the food processor. Pulse until the mixture just comes together. If necessary, transfer the mixture to a large bowl and mix with your hands. Adjust seasoning to taste and let cool slightly. With the palms of your hands, form the mixture into 1- or 2-inch balls to fit your bun size.
3. Heat canola oil in reserved nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and pan-fry meatballs in batches adding more oil as needed. Rotate the meatballs with a wooden spoon so that they are very well done. They should be browned and crisp on all sides so that there is a nice crust. Remove meatballs from the pan using 2 forks or a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
4. Slice slider buns in half and lightly brush the insides with olive oil. Toast in a sauté pan over medium heat until lightly browned on the edges. Layer a spoonful of tomato sauce, a meatball, a spoonful of pesto sauce and basil leaf in each slider bun. Stick each slider with a party pick to hold it together. Serve immediately.