Italian Vegan Meatballs

Italian Vegan Meatballs

Italian Vegan Meatballs and Gianni Vaccaro Interview – Gianni Vaccaro, founder of Sauce Milwaukee, shows us how to make Italian Vegan Meatballs. With the meatballs, she serves penne pasta with her homemade red sauce.

My guest for “Cooking with Milwaukee Community Leaders” is Gianni Vaccaro, founder of Sauce Milwaukee (  She works full-time at the Boys & Girls Club in Milwaukee and has a full course load at UWM in health and nutritional sciences.

She juggles these responsibilities and delivers meals to Milwaukee residents at least twice a week, on her bike!

Our series, “Cooking with Milwaukee Community Leaders” was recently profiled in Milwaukee Magazine –

Italian Vegan Meatballs

The Italian Vegan Meatballs are made from a combination of mushrooms, onions, garlic, spices, black beans, and walnuts. In this episode of “Cooking with Milwaukee Community Leaders,”

Why make meatless meatballs?

These vegan meatballs are a great example of cucina povera, or making do with what one has. In Italian we say “Polpette Vegane Italiane” for Italian Veagn Meatballs.

They were and still are made back in Sicily, and probably all over Italy. As you can imagine meat was difficult to come by during hard times and therefore a meal was stretched by making polpette senza carne (meatballs without meat). This was also a way to use at-hand ingredients, nothing wasted!

Gianni talks about SauceMilwaukee and their objective to tackle food scarcity in Milwaukee. There are ways to donate on the SauceMilwaukee website (

Italian Vegan Meatballs Recipe and Directions


  1. 1 cup assorted mushrooms
  2. One onion, chopped
  3. 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  4. Salt & pepper to taste
  5. A can of black beans
  6. 1 cup walnuts (combo of chopped and whole walnuts)
  7. Italian spices
  8. Olive oil
  9. Penne Pasta (cooked to specifications on the box)
  10. Marinara Sauce of your choice
  11. Blender or food processor


  1. Cook the penne according to the instructions on the box
  2. Warm the marinara sauce
  3. Sauté mushrooms, onions, and garlic until softened
  4. In a blender or food processor, combine, mushroom mixture, black beans, and walnuts
  5. Pulse the mixture and drizzle olive oil into the blender/food processor
  6. The pulsed ingredients should resemble ground beef, from a texture standpoint
  7. Form into balls
  8. Heat 1 tbsp oil
  9. Fry the meatballs on all sides, turning every couple of minutes
  10. In a pasta bowl, add the cooked pasta, ladle some marinara sauce, and top with 2-3 Italian Vegan Meatballs

Cooking With Milwaukee Community Leaders

I do a short interview with my guest, talk about their work in the community, and then cook something at our condo building. They pick whatever we will cook and I act as their sous chef. Here are some examples of “Cooking with Milwaukee Community Leaders” videos on YouTube: 

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson – Copycat McDonald’s Breakfast Sandwiches  Video is at –

Ellen Gilligan, President, and CEO, Greater Milwaukee Foundation – Lemon Curd Tarts and Limoncello – Video is at –

Ricardo Diaz (Former Exec Director of UCC) Interview – Cuban Tostones and Plantains Recipe – Video is at –

Joanne Anton, Director of Giving, Herb Kohl Philanthropies Interview – Spanakopita Video is at –

Cecelia Gore, Executive Director Brewers Community Foundation –  Stetson Salad  Video is at –

Mark Mone, Chancellor, Univ or Wisconsin Milwaukee – Chicken Parmesan – Video is at –

David Crowley, Milwaukee County Exec – Chicken Parm Sandwiches and Roasted Broccoli – Video is at –

Brian Gotter, Major Gifts Officer MACC Fund – Sausage Gravy & Biscuits – Video is at –

Randy Bryant, Exec Director Ten Chimneys – Mango Gazpacho – Video is at –

Judge Derek Mosley, Director of Marquette Univ Law School – Stuffed, roasted red peppers – Video is at –

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We were featured in “Milwaukee Magazine” May 2023 edition, called “Civic Gastronomy”. Here is the link –

Then a few days later, they were discussing me on the radio. It is a local Foodie show – “This Bites”, where my series “Cooking with Milwaukee Community Leaders” is discussed (it’s in the first few minutes of the show)

“Cooking Secrets for Men” is listed as one of the Top 30 Men’s Cooking Websites on the Internet. You can read that article here See where we rank for Men’s Cooking Websites.

If you like this recipe for Vegan Italian Meatballs, then you should try our recipe for Grilled Potato Salad. And for dessert, maybe some Lemon Curd Tarts with Limoncello

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