Great-Grandma Felicetta’s Italian Meatless Meatballs

by | Mar 28, 2017 | Recipes

Making Meatballs Meatless

My maternal Great-Grandma Felicetta and her daughter, my Grandma Mary before (whom I’ve written about before), were infamous for their Italian meatballs, strife with a plethora of animal products.

It was a challenge to come up with a version that forsakes these ingredients without abandoning their amazing flavor and texture.  It took a while to come up with this version; but as best I can remember (I haven’t had one of their meatballs in over 34 years—they have long passed away, but my father, Dutch by birth but Italian through osmosis, continues the tradition), this recipe absolutely fits the bill.


  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 6-8 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, or 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 2 pounds seitan, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups dried bread crumbs
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley, preferably flat-leaf
  • ½ cup Follow-Your-Heart Shredded Parmesan
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, preferably Italian
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon rosemary, chopped fine
  • ¼ teaspoon dried sage, finely ground
  • 1-2 quarts gravy (I’m Jersey Italian, so we call it gravy. Amerigans (‘Americans’ pronounced with Grandma-Felicetta’s broken Italian accent) call it tomato sauce, but never, not ever, out of a jar, please!)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Sauté the onions in the olive oil until translucent.
  • Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the garlic is fragrant.
  • Add the oregano and sauté for an additional minute.
  • In a food processor, combine the onion/garlic mixture, seitan, bread crumbs, parsley, parmesan, herbal salt, and black pepper until combined.
  • If you want to make approximately 20 standard-sized meatballs, use an ice cream scoop to form the balls. If you want to make approximately 40 smaller balls, use 2 heaping tablespoons to make each ball.
  • Arrange the meatballs on an oiled baking/cookie sheet. They will not expand, so they can be close together, but not touching. Bake for 30 to minutes, until lightly browned, turning after 20 minutes. (You can also use an air fryer for this step, preheating the air fryer to 360 degrees Fahrenheit for 4 minutes, then frying the meatballs for 12 minutes, shaking once after 6 minutes. Increase heat to 390 degrees Fahrenheit and continue fryer until done, approximately an additional 4-6 minutes.
  • Heat gravy in a saucepan, put meatballs into heated gravy, and continue warming until meatballs are warmed through, approximately 8-10 minutes.

Note: A wonderful alternative to baking in the oven, although admittedly the oven is much quicker when doing a large batch such as this one), is the air fryer, 360 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy on the outside while still moist on the inside.

*An important aspect of sharing original recipes is to give proper credit to the author(s) of the recipe(s). I hope that you enjoy using these recipes and making them your own; but please do so with that integrity in mind.

With much gratitude. Linda