Ital Vegan Meatballs
Whether slathered in marinara or dunked in homemade BBQ sauce, these savory plant-based spheres are a much-loved meal in many Rastafari homes.
2 hours 30 minutes
Rastafari (sometimes called Rastafarianism) is a religion that began in Jamaica during the 1930s. Vegetarianism is a pillar of the faith, and the way Rastafarians eat is based on the principle of “livity,” the core tenets of which are harmony and balance, especially with the Earth. In addition to eating a plant-based diet, adherents avoid processed foods and salt. Rastafarians were early proponents of “clean eating,” which they refer to as Ital (derived from the word vital), and which they believe is the key to eternal life. Ital cuisine is elaborately seasoned and uses lots of fresh herbs, garlic, onion, and in-season produce. Because mock meats fall into the processed food category, Ital-observant Rastafarians have developed tasty dishes that, in some cases, replicate beloved meat dishes with all-natural plant-based ingredients. These Ital balls (vegan meatballs) are one such recipe.
Each Rastafarian family has its own recipe for Ital balls, but the common thread that runs amongst them is affordability and nutrient density. You can enjoy this version atop pasta with generous amounts of tomato sauce or as an hors d’oeuvre, slathered in your favorite barbecue sauce (home-made, of course).
- 2 medium sweet potatoes (1 lb.)
- ½ cup red lentils
- ⅓ cup millet
- 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
- 1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
- 1 large onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
- 1 small green or red bell pepper, finely chopped (½ cup)
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped (½ cup)
- 1 small celery stalk, finely chopped (½ cup)
- ¼ cup finely chopped parsley leaves
- ¼ cup finely chopped scallions (green parts only) or chives
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tsp. finely chopped Scotch bonnet pepper
- 1 tsp. thyme leaves
- ½ tsp. ground pimento berries (or allspice powder)
- ¼ cup coconut oil