Vegetarian Meatballs

Total Time:
2 hr 10 min
20 min
25 min
1 hr 25 min

about 24 golf-ball-size meatballs

  • 2 cups green lentils
  • 2 carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 2 stalks celery, minced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 sprigs thyme, picked (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • Basil-Spinach Pesto, for serving, recipe follows
  • Spinach-Basil Pesto:
  • 1/8 cup walnuts
  • 4 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup grated Parmesan
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  • In a medium pot, add the lentils and 2 quarts water. Set the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the lentils until soft but not falling apart, about 25 minutes.

  • Pour the cooked lentils through a colander and let cool. In a large frying pan set over a medium-high heat, saute the carrots, onions, celery, garlic, thyme and salt with the 1/4 cup olive oil until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes.

  • When the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, stir in the tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly, until the paste darkens, about 3 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and saute, stirring frequently, until completely cooked and browned on edges, about 15 minutes. Remove vegetables from frying pan and set aside to cool.

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine cooled vegetables with lentils and all remaining ingredients, save for the 2 tablespoons olive oil and the pesto. Mix until well combined. Place the mixture in the refrigerator to cool completely, about 25 minutes.

  • Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large 9-by-12-inch baking dish, making sure to coat evenly. Roll the lentil mixture into round, golf-ball-size meatballs, making sure to pack the balls firmly. Place lentil balls into the oiled baking dish, making sure none of the meatballs touch one another.

  • Roast the lentil balls until firm and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Allow the meatballs to cool for five minutes before removing them from the tray. Serve with pesto.

Spinach-Basil Pesto:
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  • Spread the walnuts out on a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and roast until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Set the nuts aside to cool.

  • Fill a large stockpot three-quarters of the way full with water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Next, fill a large bowl with ice water.

  • Drop the spinach and basil into boiling water and give the leaves a stir. After 1 minute, remove the greens and plunge them into ice water. Discard the boiling water

  • Once cool, remove the greens from the ice bath and squeeze them dry. Give them a rough chop and transfer to a food processor.

  • Add the salt, olive oil and Parmesan to the food processor and blend until a uniform, pesto-like consistency is reached. Yield: 4 cups

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