Vegetarian Cannellini “Meatballs”

As the main cook in a household with a strict vegetarian, a carnivore and me falling somewhere in between, I often have to get creative when it comes to meal preparation. It’s often difficult to find a meal that everyone can enjoy. Often times when I make a meat-based dish, I try to find an appropriate substitute so that my veggie father won’t feel excluded, but it must also appeal to me to be worth the effort.

These cannellini bean based veggie “meatballs” do just that. They are hearty, flavorful and most important, they are not pretending to be meat. For the most part I find faux meat substitutes to be off-putting and tend to avoid using them. I find that when you use real ingredients, especially vegetarian ones your flavor payoff is exponentially greater.

As the warm weather approaches, I hope meat eaters and non-meat eaters alike will enjoy this lighter remake of an Italian classic.


Vegetarian Cannellini “Meatballs”
Source: Adapted from “Cannellini Bean Vegetarian “Meatballs” with Tomato Sauce” by Cookin’ Canuck


  • 2 cans (15 oz.) Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 handful jarred roasted red bell peppers
  • ½ medium yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • ½ tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1 ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 egg
  • Breadcrumbs
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Sauté onion in olive oil until tender and translucent. Add pressed garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Set aside to cool.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor, combine beans and roasted red peppers. Pulse until ingredients are chopped and mixture is combined into a thick paste, but not smoothly pureed.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a medium-sized bowl and stir in onion & garlic mixture, parsley, oregano, egg and Parmesan cheese. Add the breadcrumbs a little at a time, mixing after each addition until the cannelloni mixture achieves a firm texture with no wetness. Add salt and pepper.
  5. Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon form “meatballs,” rolling between the palms of your hands. “Meatballs” should come together easily, but should not be sticky. Place the “meatballs” on the prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly.
  6. Bake until the meatballs are firm to the touch and have developed a light golden brown coating, about 20 minutes.
  7. In a small casserole dish or corning ware, add the meatballs and cover with sauce of your choice and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until sauce in bubbling and serve.


If you find that the “meatballs” are not keeping their shape add more breadcrumbs to the mixture and reshape.

We cooked these in Fra Diavolo sauce for an extra kick. Feel free to swap out the traditional marinara for a sauce of your choice.





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