These polpetti are far from your standard “meatless” balls and in Italy, polpetti are also traditionally eaten without a sauce as a snack or small light meal. When cooked without meat, these are sometimes called crocchette, a word taken from the french language used to distinguish from the two. This recipe, using tofu and chickpeas, gives the polpetti an amazing texture. Topped with the most delicious Marinara sauce, a match made in heaven, you have something delicious, hearty and perfect for any occasion.
Tofu and Chickpea Polpette With Marinara Sauce [Vegan, Grain-Free]
For the Marinara Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large carrot, very finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, very finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 4/5 cup and 2 teaspoons vegan white wine
For the Sofrito Base:
- 8.8 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 4/5 cup and 2 teaspoons water
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 2 tablespoons tomato purée
- Handful finely chopped fresh basil
For the Polpetti:
- 14 ounces block firm tofu
- 1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon powder
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tablespoons dried Porcini mushrooms
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 4 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup pistachio nuts
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, or to your liking
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 garlic clove crushed or teaspoon garlic powder
- Oil, for frying
To Prepare the Tofu:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Drain the tofu, press to remove as much water as possible and crumble the tofu into small clumps into a bowl.
- Stir in the vegetable bouillon powder, light soy sauce, and dark soy sauce and spread the mixture out onto a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until the tofu is very firm and has bouncy texture.
To Make the Sauce:
- Add the oil to a frying pan over a medium heat and add the finely chopped carrot, celery, onion, garlic, salt, bay leaves, thyme. Fry for 4-5 minutes then add the white wine and pepper. Cover and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened.
- Next add the mushrooms and cook for a further 4-5 minutes.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, water, vegetable stock cube, tomato purée, and fresh basil. Cover and simmer gently for 8-10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and continue to cook for a further 6-7 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
- Put to one side and prepare the polpette.
To Make the Polpetti:
- When ready, remove tofu from oven and reduce oven to 370°F.
- Place the dried mushrooms into a processor and process until powdered. Now add the red onion, parsley, pistachio nuts, drained chickpeas, paprika, chili, salt, pepper, and garlic.
- Process until the mixture is very thick and dough-like.
- Place the mixture into a bowl and pour over the baked tofu. and stir the tofu gently into the mixture.
- Shape into small balls, approximately half the size of a golf ball, place on a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator to set for around 10 minutes.
- Using a deep fat fryer or a pan of oil, fry the balls in batches, making sure the oil is hot enough so that they sizzle and fry as soon as they tough the fat. Cook for just 1 minute and remove with a slotted spoon and place back onto the baking tray.
- Place back into the oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking.