Our winter obsession with beets has continued. ib‘s Russian influence must be rubbing off…we just can’t get enough! After some discussion about new things to try with beets, and with a pinch of silliness, we landed on an idea that we actually really wanted to try: beetballs. Yes — spaghetti and beetballs.
We weren’t really interested in making a meat-substitute, but we were excited about the combination (yet separation) of flavors. And I love the bold red color of beets, but not always after they bleed pink juices all over the pasta, so beetballs sounded like a clever way to concentrate the “mess” as well. We also had to consider the pasta sauce for a while, as we wanted something to flavor and coat the noodles without distracting from the beets. Oil-based or cream-based sauces seemed to be the way to go, but we decided to start simple with just some oil and sauteed leeks, leaving the pizzaz to the beetballs.
The biggest mystery was how we were actually going to create a tasty beet mixture that would be stable through ball-rolling and pan frying. (It could even work to bake the beetballs as one does Swedish meatballs, but for now we simply fried them.) We decided that beans would be a good addition and considered canellini beans, chickpeas, and even lentils, but settled on chickpeas. After puréeing beets in our food processor (really an attachment for a hand mixer, but it worked just fine for us), we mixed them in different ratios with puréed chickpeas, egg, breadcrumbs, ground flax, and spices. We seasoned them mostly with paprika, salt, and pepper. Then we rolled them into ping-pong sized balls and fried them until lightly golden on the outside.
The meal was very simple, but the beets stood up well in their star role and created an interesting new texture and theme. Unfortunately, we weren’t very scientific about recording our beetball mix composition, but we also haven’t fully agreed on the best ratio of ingredients. I think ib preferred a more chickpea-heavy flavor and texture, while I preferred to let the beets stand on their own, held together as much by the breadcrumbs and flax as the bean purée. We both agreed that the breadcrumbs added a nice texture and we’d make sure that they’re in the mix in the future. Now it might be time to try out other beans and maybe some quinoa or other ingredients to beef up our beetballs.