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This recipe is exclusive to The Happy Foodie


Max La Manna’s Back-to-School Meatballs

In his latest exclusive recipe for The Happy Foodie, Max La Manna shares an easy and flexible vegan version of the classic spaghetti and meatballs. In this freezer-friendly dish, Max tops spaghetti with a rich tomato sauce, juicy meatballs, fresh basil and plenty of vegan parmesan.


I call these back-to-school meatballs because this time of year always reminds me of heading back to school and coming home feeling so hungry that only meatballs would hit the spot. These are great for a delicious dinner, but they also freeze super well, so you can make a batch, roll the meatballs, and keep them in the freezer, ready to use whenever you’re stuck for dinner inspiration! These are served with a simple tomato sauce, which, once you’ve got down, has so many uses.  I like to make a big batch to use throughout the week for pasta dishes, aubergine bakes or as a pizza base. You can change it up by adding fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and olives to make a caponata-style sauce or I’ve been known to add a spice paste, which transforms it into a new sauce altogether, serving it drizzled with yoghurt to balance out the heat. For the meatballs, I use Beyond Meat vegan sausages – I think you can’t beat them – but if you can’t find them, then make sure you choose a brand that will hold together when you squeeze the meat from the casing. I finish with fresh basil on top, but these would also be great with any fresh herbs.

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3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp tomato paste
400g vegan sausages (I use Beyond Meat)
125ml red wine
680ml passata
Handful fresh oregano
1 tsp Marmite
400g spaghetti
fresh basil and vegan parmesan, to serve
salt and black pepper, to season


Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion with a big pinch of salt, fry for 5 minutes until it starts to soften, then grate in the garlic, add the dried oregano and tomato paste and cook for a further 2 minutes. Tip half of the mixture into a bowl and squeeze the vegan sausage meat out of its casing into the same bowl. Season well and mix. Put aside.

Add the red wine to the remaining onion mixture in the pan and let it bubble until reduced by half and then add the passata. Bring to the boil, then turn it down to a simmer, before adding the fresh oregano and covering with a lid. Cook for 45 mins-1 hour, until sweet.

Meanwhile, roll the meat mixture into 20 even balls. Place on a lined baking sheet and put in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Brush the meatballs with a little olive oil and bake for 10 mins, until cooked through. Add the marmite to taste and set aside. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil.

Tip the cooked meatballs into a frying pan over a medium-high heat to colour a little on all sides, then add to the sauce. Drop the spaghetti into the boiling water and cook according to package instructions.

Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the pasta water, and then return it to the pan and toss with a little olive oil. Twirl into bowls, then top with the meatballs and sauce. Finish with fresh basil leaves and a grating of vegan parmesan if you like.


This recipe is exclusive to The Happy Foodie

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