Recipe Description

You can find this dish in every Italian grandma’s house. Simple, genuine, and easy to prepare.

In our cruelty-free version, we substituted the minced meat with seitan and textured soya protein and the parmesan with nutritional yeast.

Separate ingredients: breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast, soya, seitan, tomato sauce, parsley.

Origin and Curiosities

Middle East Origins

Even if the Polpette al Sugo (Meatballs in Sauce) is nowadays a staple dish of Italian cuisine, its origin is uncertain.

The most accredited theory says they were created in Persia with the name of kofta (mashed meat).

When the Arabs conquered Persia, they first learned about this preparation and then spread it all over the Middle East.

The meatballs arrived then in Europe when the Arabs ruled Spain. The Spanish word for meatballs, albondigas comes, in fact, from the Arabic one, al-bonâdiq.

Meatballs covered with tomato sauce on a plate, basil on top.

Where Did You Hide the Spaghetti?

Contrary to popular belief, spaghetti and meatballs is not a familiar recipe in Italy, nor exactly a traditional one. Just think that the author of this article has never tried or seen this or a similar recipe in his 32 years of life!

It is, in fact, an Italian-American recipe due to the Italian immigration to the US from 1880 onwards.

However, similar regional recipes that recall (and that inspired) spaghetti and meatballs do exist in Italy. The famous Italian-American dish differs from the Italian recipes, especially for one aspect: it uses big meatballs, while the traditional recipes use smaller ones.

Vegan Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Resting time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 20 meatballs
Plant-based version of the traditional Italian meatballs.


  • pan with lid
  • bowl
  • blender
  • cutting board
  • knife
  • drainer
  • spatula


  • 250 g seitan (or 8.8 oz)
  • 80 g textured soya protein (or 2.8 oz)
  • 40 g breadcrumbs (or 1.4 oz)
  • 40 g nutrional yeast (or 1.4 oz)
  • 500 ml vegetable broth (or 17 fl oz)
  • 400 g tomato souce (or 14 oz)
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • nutmeg
  • parsley
  • extra vergin olive oil
  • smoked paprika – optional


  • At first, rehydrate soya in hot broth for 10 minutes.
  • In the meantime, dice the parsley.
  • Drain the soya (but don't squeeze it) – use a container underneath to save the drained broth for later.
    Blend soya and seitan together into a uniform mixture.
  • Transfer the mixture to the bowl. Then add breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast, parsley, nutmeg and smoked paprika (to taste), a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Mix the ingredients together (start with the spatula, then use your hands) until reaching a uniform mixture.
    Then, leave it to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Now start shaping the meatballs. To make it easier, dampen your hands before forming each piece.
  • In the pan, heat abundant oil.
    Then fry the meatballs on all sides. When they are golden brown, turn off the heat and move the meatballs onto a plate (leave the excess oil in the pan).
  • In the pan, add tomato sauce and around 150 ml (5 oz) of the broth you put apart. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 7-10 minutes.
    Now add the meatballs and let them cook for 5 minutes. From time to time, carefully mix the meatballs with the sauce.
    Serve warm.
    P.S. when the meatballs are finished, don't forget to fare la scarpetta! (mop up all the sauce with a scrap of bread) 😉
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Vegan
Keyword: authentic, meatballs, sauce, seitan, soy, soya, tomato, traditional

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