When I think of the Falafel, I think of late night post-party joints, where the young and restless recount their night of adventure, and soak up some much-needed carbohydrates. Or I think of street vendors efficiently serving these tasty treats to snack-hungry passersby looking for some fuel before continuing on their daily pursuits.
What’s not to like about these crunchy fried balls? The crispy outer, breaded to perfection; the tasty bite, bursting with flavor; and the accompanying yogurt/tahini/hummus sauce, balancing it all out. Just thinking about it had me salivating, so I just HAD to make this for dinner!
But of course, I had to throw in some experimental cooking of my own, so I made a healthier version by baking instead of frying. I gave the traditionally Middle Eastern dish an Italian twist with a red pepper & mushroom sauce, and Voila! A Falafel Casserole suitable to put on the table for a family dinner or a potluck gathering!
What You Need for the Falafel Balls:
- 1 can or 2 cups of chickpeas/garbanzo beans
- 1 cup of bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup of chopped cilantro
- 2 tsp of cumin
- 1 tsp of ground coriander
- 1 tsp baking soda
- a drizzle of olive oil
- chili pepper flakes (i put in 1/5 cup!)
- 1 egg
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:
- 3-5 Roasted Red Peppers (broiled in the oven and skin peeled off)
- 2-3 Tbsp Tomato paste (just a little to thicken the sauce)
- 1/2- 1 cup Veggie Stock
- 1 pack of Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
- Cream (i use non-fat 1/2 & 1/2)
- Dry white wine
- 2-3 cups Mozzarella Cheese
- Parmesan Cheese (for topping)
Roll with it and get Saucy:
- Mix all the ingredients in a blender/food processor until it becomes a thick paste. Taste to make sure you like the flavor and add more of what you think is missing.
- Roll into balls around the size of walnuts/golf balls
- Bake in the oven for 20 min at 400 degrees (flipping over once in between).
- While falafels bake in oven, heat a sauce pan and saute some mushrooms in the tomato paste.
- Once mushrooms are brown, add in the stock & wine and bring to boil, then simmer.
- Puree the roasted red pepper in a blender/food processer, leaving some chunks remaining. Add to the mushroom mixture and slowly add in the cream. Let stand until sauce thickens.
- Remove falafels from the oven. Pour sauce over the falafels. Add the mozzarella cheese. Mix well, top with parmesan cheese, and yes, stick it back in the oven!
- Bake again for around 15 to 20 min at 350 – just enough to melt the cheese and have the red pepper sauce envelope the falafels. Serve warm!
Some variations to play with:
- Make the falafels into smaller balls (1/4 the size) for more thorough flavor integration with the sauce
- Add another solid (like rice, orzo, or black beans) to make the casserole more robust & filling.
- I used mozzarella because I was afraid a stronger cheese might overpower the other flavors, but I secretly wanted to try the following: Goat, Feta, Vermont Cheddar, Gruyere