Spaghetti and Spinach Balls

by Sala @ Veggie Belly on May 3, 2010

I first had this amazing pasta dish at Italia restaurant in Park Pod hotel, Chennai, India. Wanting to recreate the dish at home, I googled around to see if there were similar recipes. To my surprise I found a very similar recipe that is served at the famous Carluccios restaurant in UK! My recipe is inspired by Antonio Carluccios recipe for pasta with courgette sauce and spinach balls on BBC Food


Not only is Antonio Carluccios recipe delicious, it also has a special story behind it..

Everytime someone orders this dish at Carluccios restaurant, 50p (about 75 cents) is donated on the diner’s behalf to the charity, Action Against Hunger. In just 3 years Carluccios has raised 430,000 pounds for the charity this way!  Take a look at their menu for details. (The restaurant sells this dish as penne giardiniera).

I made several changes to Carluccios recipe. Their spinach balls use eggs, I cut that out. Their recipe required fresh spinach leaves, but I used frozen, thawed spinach because i like the texture of frozen spinach better. I also added fresh thyme and extra garlic to the pasta for extra flavor. The fried spinach and parmesan balls are super tasty! You could even serve them as a snack or appetizer. But I love them in the pasta. These are a great vegetarian substitute  for spaghetti and meat balls.

Some tips:

- Timing is important in this recipe because there are 3 elements to it – the pasta, pasta sauce, and spinach balls. Make the pasta sauce first (using olive oil, thyme, garlic, zucchini and cheese) and keep aside. Then work on the spinach balls. Roll the balls and keep them ready to fry.  Then put the pasta to boil. While the pasta is boiling, fry the spinach balls. This way, the pasta and the spinach balls will be done at the same time and you will have al dente pasta and crispy spinach balls just before serving.

- If you want to use fresh spinach, blanch it in boiling water and squeeze dry before using. Refer to Carluccio’s original recipe which uses fresh spinach.

- If your spinach mixture is too dry and wont form a ball, sprinkle a little water. If the mixture is too moist (you probably didnt squeeze the spinach dry enough), try adding more bread crumbs. Keep in mind that if the mixture is too wet, then end result will be oily.

- You can bake the spinach balls if you wish. But it will work better if you formed the spinach mixture into patties for baking, instead of balls. This way, you will get a crunchier exterior in the oven. Ive never baked these before, but I think a temperature of 400-450f should work.

Spaghetti and Crispy Fried Spinach Parmesan Balls Recipe

adapted from this recipe by Antonio Carluccio
serves about 6

For pasta

450g or 1 lb spaghetti pasta
8 tablespoons olive oil
3 sprigs fresh thyme
4 garlic cloves, minced
Crushed red pepper, according to taste
2 zucchini or summer squash cut into thin strips (see picture in post)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt
Pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Generously salt the water. When water boils, add pasta and cook till al dente.

While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a pan. Add thyme sprigs, garlic and crushed pepper and cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the chopped zucchini. Saute for about 2 minutes or till the zucchini is cooked, but still a little crunchy. Turn off heat and stir in grated parmesan, salt and pepper. This is your pasta ‘sauce’. When the pasta is done, drain the pasta and toss with the zucchini mixture.

For Spinach Balls (makes about 24 balls)

1 lb frozen spinach
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 cup breadcrumbs
a pinch of nutmeg
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt
Pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

Thaw frozen spinach. Squeeze out as much water as possible. Place thawed, dry spinach in a bowl. Add all other ingredients to the bowl, except the oil. Mix well.

Now test the spinach balls. Make one ball from the mixture, heat the oil, and shallow fry it on medium-high heat. If the balls fall apart, you need to add a little more bread crumbs to bind the mixture. If the extra breadcrumb trick didnt work, and the balls still fall apart, add one beaten egg to the mixture.

Form the spinach mixture into balls (see pictures in post). Heat a thin layer of oil in a wide, shallow pan.

Place spinach balls a few at a time and shallow fry them on medium-high heat, turning the balls around till all sides are golden and crisp. Remove spinach balls with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels.

Serve spinach parmesan balls with the spaghetti.

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Comments

comments

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sharmilee May 3, 2010 at 12:57 am

Spinach rolls – a healthy treat!

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2 nags May 3, 2010 at 1:57 am

that’s a lovely idea and such a wonderful story about the fundraising! I am definitely going to try the spinach balls and probably the pasta with some more sauce. TH likes his pasta swimming in sauce!

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3 Rosa May 3, 2010 at 4:39 am

What a lovely and refined dish! Those spinach balls look really good!

Cheers,

Rosa

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4 sangeeta May 3, 2010 at 5:37 am

Lovely pictures and awesome recipe….i love my pasta with veggies , this spinach ball version looks exotic with fresh thyme……sadly it reminds me that i could not save my thyme plant in this scorching summer here…..i loose many of my herbs every summer n then plant again….sobs!!

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5 Happy Cook May 3, 2010 at 5:47 am

I have a book from Antonio Carluccio and i love the book even though soemtimes he use expensive ingridients like truffel etc….. this just looks so so good, pity my daughter don’t like courgettes, but she love spinach.

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6 Su-yin May 3, 2010 at 5:47 am

I love this dish, and always order it at Carluccio’s. Your take on it looks absolutely scrumptious!

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7 chocolate shavings May 3, 2010 at 5:57 am

Looks delicious and I love those shots!

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8 Jacqueline May 3, 2010 at 6:30 am

Those looks really gorgeous. I am definitely going to try these out. Thanks for the recipe :)

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9 Forage May 3, 2010 at 6:43 am

Wow. really love this recipe. Another great way to get kid to eat veg; )

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10 nina May 3, 2010 at 7:18 am

This is simply stunning, so beautiful!!

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11 Brian May 3, 2010 at 7:30 am

I’m definitely going to try this one! Spinach is one of those things that I never think to really use in a creative way. I made spinach matzo balls recently and they were very tasty, so I’m sure this is going to be great!

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12 Anjali May 3, 2010 at 7:48 am

An informative write up, amazing pictures, a great recipe and helpful tips! I love everything about this post. Your blog is delightful.

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13 Recipeman May 3, 2010 at 9:15 am

this looks so good. and a real refreshing recipe.
the combination of pasta ( spaghetti actually) and the balls ( crunchy abit) it great!

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14 pavithra May 3, 2010 at 9:16 am

I too make the spaghetti similar way adding zucchini , but the spinach balls looks interesing.. I have bookmarked this sala.. thanks for sharing . By the way the pictures are gorgeous as always.

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15 Laavanya May 3, 2010 at 10:19 am

How good looking is that? SPinach and parmesan as a crispy combination has me drooling :)

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16 Dana May 3, 2010 at 10:46 am

I don’t even know what to say, Sala. What an amazing meal! I ate at Carluccio’s often when living in London and I never had anything this delicious! Will you make this for me?

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17 Ritesh May 3, 2010 at 11:03 am

Wow! This is inspiring me to try my hand at it…I am definitely gonna try it sometime this week. I like pasta and the idea of spinach balls….that bought me. BTW, I am thinking I’ll use the pasta sauce(store bought) thats sitting in my fridge for a long time now….think that’ll turn out ok too?

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18 Soma May 3, 2010 at 1:46 pm

The spinach balls are a treat by themselves. Love it how you have put everything together.

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19 shubha May 3, 2010 at 2:03 pm

It looks incredible.And what more..its a great dish fro grass eaters like me.

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20 Shelly May 3, 2010 at 3:50 pm

That looks so good… Can’t wait to try it.

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21 lisaiscooking May 3, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Spinach ‘meat’balls sound delicious! Great crunchy texture and parmesan flavor. Love this.

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22 elra May 3, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Clever idea. Would love to try it~

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23 Cynthia May 3, 2010 at 8:30 pm

This is genius! Love it and bookmarked for when entertaining with a veg meal!

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24 lisa May 4, 2010 at 1:09 am

I love the sound of this dish, especially the spinach balls. It’s a great alternative for veggie pasta lovers. Looks delicious and very colorful!

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25 Joe Zachs May 4, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Like the way the vegetable is sliced. So thin.

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26 shankari May 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm

I have not had breakfast, I should not be taking a break right now and most importantly, should not have come here to see what is cooking. I am hungry for some pasta

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27 Anu May 4, 2010 at 9:32 pm

This looks delicious.. hmm I wonder if you can use falafel instead of spinach balls.. I’ll try that..I was even thinking of using falalfel for kofta curry.. it’ll have more proteins…thanks for the veggie meatball idea.

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28 Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets May 5, 2010 at 10:18 pm

These balls look fun and so tasty. Parmesan gives such wonderful flavor to whatever it’s in. Your photos are great. What’s the background surface for the first picture?

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Sala @ Veggie Belly Reply:

the surface is a tile from lowes :)

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29 nithya at hungrydesi May 10, 2010 at 9:56 am

I can’t wait to try these! They looks so much better than veggie meatballs and so easy to put together.

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30 Michelle May 14, 2010 at 5:26 pm

I can’t believe the spinach balls actually keep their shape, I thought they would disintegrate. They look remarkably like meatballs with some greens in them. Wonder what they taste like…

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31 larkas May 28, 2010 at 8:45 pm

I have died and gone to heaven! thank you!

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32 pam May 28, 2010 at 10:45 pm

I made it! It turned out surprisingly well. It was easy but time-consuming. It was so good and healthy and even my non-vegetarian friends loved it. Thank you so much for sharing. I love your website.

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33 Chitra June 2, 2010 at 4:10 pm

love this idea. looks mouthwatering:)

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34 Anu Menon August 16, 2010 at 5:24 am

LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!

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35 The Food Hunter September 4, 2010 at 5:22 am

What a great idea.

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36 Joanne September 4, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Gorgeous photos and excellent recipe! It’s so nice of this restaurant to donate money to charity whenever this is ordered.

I’m not a vegetarian but I like veggies way more than meat, so I love this meatball substitute!

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37 GC February 10, 2011 at 2:58 am

Just came across your site for the first time.. Saw these and had to try them immediately!

I only had enough spinach to make a quarter of this recipe and didn’t feel like pasta, so I shaped them into tiny patties, fried them and am now eating them topped simply with a slice of tomato and small wedge of feta – delish!

Thank you :)

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38 Sunita March 18, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Great recipe! We are dairy and wheat free, so I made this using gluten-free bread crumbs, and instead of the parm cheese, I used 1/4 cup of garbanzo (besan) flour mixed with just enough water to bring the flour together in a very thick paste. This helped the balls to stick together very well. To mimic the oil of cheese, I put a little bit of olive oil in the batter, brushed the outsides of the balls with a little more olive oil, then baked them at 375F for 30 minutes. They were really delicious. I will make these often. Thank you!

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39 Rachel May 31, 2011 at 2:52 pm

I made these the other night and they were AMAZING!! I ended up adding egg to the mixture because it just was not going to hold together otherwise. Maybe my spinach was too dry? Anwyay- this was awesome. Followed the instructions for the pasta “sauce”. It turned out delicious, but the only advice I would give is to not add the parmasean cheese until the very end. Mine melted and got clumpy while I was frying the spinach balls. Overall- amazing recipe! Definitely a keeper ! Thanks! :)

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40 Amrita October 3, 2011 at 5:56 am

Hi i was wondering if I can use fresh spinach instead of frozen coz im not sure if i can find frozen here?! Thanks!!

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Sala @ Veggie Belly Reply:

yes, but shred the fresh spinach before using.

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41 Loralu February 5, 2012 at 8:42 pm

So i was excited to try this. It was a disaster
The balls held together perfect until i cooked them.then they fell apart. Seriously annoyed

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Sala @ Veggie Belly Reply:

Please read the part about adding more bread crumbs to the mixture if it is too loose (under tips). If you fry one and it falls apart, try adding more bread crumbs to bind it. If that fails, add a beaten egg to the mixture, this will make sure the balls dont fall apart.

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42 Loralu February 5, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Well i used some vegan parmesan and added a bit more bread crumbs i tried it all. But im vegan so no eggs i did think aboit adding flax seed with warm water. But i gave up.

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43 Katelyn April 1, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I tried this recipe the other day and LOVED it and so did my carnivore boyfriend. It worked out perfectly and I even added green peppers and red onion to the pasta! LOVE THIS RECIPE! No troubles at all :)

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44 Jyostna September 6, 2012 at 10:36 pm

I love this item at Carluccios…Thanks for giving the recipe!

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45 Agasel May 2, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Made them – love them!

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