Adapted from nytimes.com/cooking
It’s amazing how many ways people have come up with to convert traditional meat dishes for vegetarians. You can always go to the supermarket and buy vegetarian meatballs (I like the Trader Joe’s ones) but there are a LOT of “unpronounceables” on the ingredients list. This is neither the easiest nor the fastest recipe but you know what’s going into them. The lentils give them a good meaty texture and then you have the additional benefits of all the veggies.
Yields 30-32 veggie balls
- 2 cups lentils
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- Salt, to taste
- 3 tablespoons tomato purée
- 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup grated rennet-free Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup oat flour
- ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- ¼ cup walnuts, finely chopped
1. Combine the lentils and 2 quarts of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft but not falling apart, about 25 minutes. Drain the lentils and let cool.
2. Add the olive oil to a large frying pan and sauté the onions, carrots, thyme and slat over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown.
3. Add the tomato purée and continue to cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes.
4. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently for 15 more minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
5. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, add the lentils to the vegetable mixture.
6. Add the eggs, Parmesan, oat flour, parsley and walnuts to the cooled vegetables and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Place in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.
7. Preheat the oven to 400F (204C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.
8. Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs, making sure to pack the vegetable mixture firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, allowing ¼-inch of space between the balls and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid.
9. Roast in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through.
Comments: I liked these plain and simple but the original recipe suggests eating them with pesto; my parents did so and loved it. If there’s one thing that could be improved is the umami taste. There isn’t much of it so they may be even better if you add more spices or serve them with some kind of sauce to ump up the taste. I did not have oat flour but I processed old-fashioned oats; you can also use breadcrumbs (as stated in the original recipe). You may be able to find finely chopped walnuts in the supermarket or you can also process these. When forming the “meatballs,” I suggest you wet your hands so that the mixture doesn’t stick to them. I made half the recipe for my parents and myself and I had leftovers for lunch the following day (good for a meatball sub!).