Vegan Cauliflower “Meat” Balls: $5 Dinner for Two AND a Leftover Makeover in One!

cauliflower meatballs 7
As I’ve mentioned before, I never throw out food, even if there are only a few bites left. It can always be used for SOMETHING- a little nibble here, a snack there.
My husband starts salivating as soon as I’m cooking it seems. He goes from “I could eat” to “I’M STARVING!!!!” in a matter of seconds. He gets so hungry that he must (MUST!) have a bite of something before dinner is even ready (see: Hummus burger recipe where he stole two spoonfulls of uncooked hummus “burger” which was just veggies, chickpeas, tahini, and quinoa flour, no uncooked meat or eggs). Therefore, saving every little bit of leftovers is essential in our house (and should be in yours too!) Instead of him eating my uncooked meal or stealing from the pan as I cook (yes, even this happens!) I say “there’s a few bites of xyz in the fridge” and he’ll eat that.
This time I made a meal out of my leftover gnocchi before he could get to those. I was putting my lunch together the other day and saw my ramekin of leftover gnocchi. Not enough for a meal itself, so I knew it would either be one of his “I’m so hungry I have to eat NOW” snacks or that it would be used as part of a leftover makeover.
cauliflower meatballs 2
While at the store that night I saw organic cauliflower for a great price. It was priced per head, not per pound, so if you can find a big one you’re getting a great deal. I found the biggest, heaviest head they had for $3.49. So now I knew tonight’s dinner would consist of cauliflower and leftover gnocchi that had homemade tomato sauce on it. I knew I had more of the tomato sauce leftover as well, so the theme would most likely be Italian. How can I get cauliflower + gnocchi + tomato sauce to go together? Throw them all together to make “meat” balls! I added protein and texture by using finely ground nuts, and a nutritious, healthy meal, 100% organic meal was born!
The best part is, this recipe uses both the stems and the florets of the cauliflower- a big money saving trick. Many like to just chop off broccoli or cauliflower florets and discard the stems. Even if you don’t like the flavor or texture of stems, they will be ground up in this recipe and you’ll never notice!  And I have 4/5 of a cauliflower still to use up- very exciting!(You could do this recipe with broccoli as well, the color will just be off and the water content can be different so you may need to adjust.)
  • 1/4-1/5 of an organic cauliflower, depending on size (if it’s small, use more, if the head is big, use less of it). Include both the florets AND the stems.
  • 5 organic baby portobello (crimini) or white button mushrooms, caps and stems
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) sliced organic almonds (any nut will work here, I just had almonds on hand)
  • 1 cup (about 10 regular sized gnocchi) leftover previously cooked gnocchi, with as much sauce removed as possible (you can cook 10 frozen gnocchi just for this recipe or use 3/4 cup (about 200-250 grams, depending on ingredients) of mashed potatoes mixed with your flour of choice until the mixture is thick).
  • 1/2 cup (40-50 grams) breadcrumbs (I used 100% whole wheat panko)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt-free all purpose seasoning (any organic blend of spices you like!
  • Olive oil for cooking
cauliflower meatballs 1
Heat one one or two tablespoons of olive oil. Chop the cauliflower into small pieces/chunks and add to the hot pan. Let the cauliflower cook for a few minutes and chop the mushrooms into small pieces/chunks. Add to the cauliflower and cook until the vegetables are almost fully cooked, but not quite. Put the almost fully cooked cauliflower and mushrooms into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, but NOT mushy or paste like.
cauliflower meatballs 3
Place leftover (or newly cooked) gnocchi in a large bowl, mash them until they are smooth. If using mashed potatoes, add your flour of choice until they are thick (3:1 ratio should work, 3 parts potatoes, 1 part flour, example: 3/4 cup potatoes, 1/4 cup flour). Add the contents of the food processor to the gnocchi (or potatoes).
Lightly toast the almonds or other nut you are using by placing them in a cold pan, turning up the heat, and waiting until they JUST start to turn golden brown. Stir them as they are heating up to ensure even cooking. Be very careful to watch these closely, they can go from not toasted to burned and unusable in a matter of seconds!
cauliflower meatballs 4
Remove from heat immediately as they start to turn color and add to the same food processor (no cleaning between necessary!) Finely process until they are a course meal. Add to the gnocchi, cauliflower, and mushrooms. Add all spices and stir together. Add the breadcrumbs, starting with just half of them. Stir and evaluate. Each batch is different, depending on the brand of gnocchi or if they’re homemade and if you’re using mashed potatoes. Add the rest of the breadcrumbs if the mixture looks too wet.
cauliflower meatballs 5
Try to make a meatball- if everything sticks together without being gummy, you’re all set. If the mixture sticks to your hand and you have a hard time rolling the meatball, add more breadcrumbs until you are able to do so.
Heat a skillet with olive oil. Make mini meatballs as opposed to large. Cook the meatballs on each side until golden brown.
cauliflower meatballs 6
Heat or make your favorite organic tomato sauce and serve! We had ours with steamed kale, but you can use your favorite vegetable or a salad on the side, whatever you prefer!

The leftover gnocchi I used were organic frozen that I made the a few nights back.  I used about 75 cents worth of gnocchi for this recipe, along with 70 cents of cauliflower, $1.00 of nuts, $1.00 of mushrooms, and the remaining balance of the $5.00 for breadcrumbs, spices, oil, and kale.  

Of course, you can make this meal for a little bit less if you choose conventional ingredients instead of organic. I made this meal for two for about $5.00 using 100% organic ingredients. Why not give it a try if you can- eating organic doesn’t have to be expensive if you know how to stretch your dollars (as this recipe does!) Enjoy!