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Alt-Eats: Beyond Meat Italian Meatballs

Up until we discovered Beyond Meat’s Hot Italian Sausages, I found most alt-meats crappy. The burgers tasted off; I’d much prefer a homemade bean burger (still do) to the patties of ground-beef-looking stuff shaped into thin discs. Faux-chicken patties were bland and really just vehicles for deep-fried things. Tofu dogs were gross. 

I remember feeling extreme skepticism the first time I pan-fried a pair of Beyond Meat Italian Sausages, probably two years ago. The rest of the alt-meats sucked. Why should this one prevail? 

Prior to cooking the sausages, I slow-sauteed sliced onion and green pepper, until sweet and unctuous. A proper Italian sausage sandwich, in my opinion, doesn’t need more than sausage + onion + pepper.

I slid the sausages into one of those soft brioche hot dog buns from Whole Foods Market; the buns may be WFM’s most powerful triumph. Using tongs, I covered the top of the sausages with onions and peppers. 

One bite. Fennel and hot pepper, grease and snap. Sweet, soft onions and peppers. I found my first alt-meat success. The product is a masterpiece.

beyond meat meatballs
These are some expensive balls.

Beyond Meatballs taste meaty

Two weeks ago I ran across a new Beyond Meat product: Italian meatballs. Given the wonders of the company’s Italian sausages, I picked up a package in a refrigerator. Eight bucks for 12 meatballs, which weighed just 10 ounces. That’s nearly $13 a pound. Ouch.

For a recent dinner we warmed tomato sauce we made in the fall with tomatoes from Black Cat Organic Farm. We heated a cast-iron skillet, and placed the alt-meatballs in the dry pan — no oil, per the instructions. Soon, they began sizzling. I turned one and the bottom was crisp and caramelized — perfect. After about 10 minutes of moving meatballs around to char all sides, we were ready.

Hot spaghetti in a bowl. Tomato sauce on top. Meatballs decorating the beige-and-red mound.

“Too meaty!” says Annie upon her first bite. She hasn’t eaten meat for decades, but she remembers the flavor. “Also, I’m not tasting much in the way of Italian seasoning. Rather than an Italian meatball, it just tastes like a meatball. At least it’s versatile. Could be used in other cuisines.”

Beyond Meat meatballs.
The meatballs crisped-up nicely. Bravo!

Exterior texture is winning. Interior needs R&D.

I appreciated how the meatballs gained a pleasing crust after minutes in the pan. Beyond Meat nailed that part of the texture equation. Unfortunately, the meat within the crust was too chewy; a good Italian meatball is light and slightly crumbly rather than taffy-like. In fact, the interiors were so dense that sauce didn’t penetrate the balls the next day, after I reheated them for about an hour in hot tomato sauce.

As a planty person who occasionally eats the flesh of dead animals, I didn’t find them too “meaty.” But Annie was right about the seasoning. Too meh. 

I think they stand as a decent attempt. For meat lovers hunting for alternatives, these indeed seem … meaty. With louder seasoning and a lighter texture, they’ve got potential.

Either way, these alt-balls are too expensive.

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