This second try at making a plant-based meal for my meat-and-potatoes-atarian husband wasn't a success for him. Fortunately, they were still delicious to me so I ate them. The problem was they didn't hold together even though I added eggs. Most of them fell apart when I put them in the hot sauce. Some of them did. Some of them didn't. I thought the lentils made the sauce rich and sumptuous but my husband thought the texture was awful. So it wasn't that there were vegetables in it that he objected to. It was the texture he did not like.
I've found that my food processor is my best friend and confidante. It shreds the vegetables into such tiny bits that they are invisible when cooked and added to the recipe. When my husband asks, “What’s in those meatballs?” I can honestly say mostly beans and rice which are foods that he will eat. I like this recipe because, once browned in olive oil, the color is really very much like a true Meatball. The sauce completes the deception. If you make from-scratch spaghetti from semolina flour it’s a real taste treat.
Meatless Spaghetti and Meatballs
- 1-1/2 cups green lentils (dry)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, shredded
- 2 cloves of garlic, shredded
- 1 carrot, shredded
- 3 cups stock (veg, chicken or beef)
- 1 cup cooked rice
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped fine
- 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
- 1-1/4 cups panko bread crumbs, plus 1 cup for rolling balls
- 1 to 2 eggs
- 2 t. Oregano
- 1/4 c Parmesan or Romano cheese
- 2 t. Parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
Shred the onions and carrots in your food processor. Put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a small stockpot and add diced onion, garlic, walnuts and carrots and saute over medium-low heat. Low and slow makes the veggies soft and sweet. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes or until everything is translucent.
Once the veggies are soft add the lentils and liquid and stir, then cover, and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook just until the lentils begin to soften. Check them after 15 minutes. Try a spoonful. If they are soft they’re done. If you need to cook them longer add a little more stock. A little bit at a time. You’re looking for the lentils to absorb the liquid but you don't want them to be mushy. Let them cool a bit.
Put 2 cups of the cooked lentil concoction in the food processor. Add 1 cup cooked brown rice, 1 or 2 eggs, a big dollop of tomato paste and 1-1/4 c panko. Pulse until combined. Taste for seasonings. At this time if you want you can add 2 teaspoons of oregano, parsley or 1/4 cup of parmesan or romano cheese. I didn’t add cheese to mine and they taste very good without it.
Make balls with the mixture, then roll each one in the breadcrumbs.
Don't these look like meatballs made with meat?
Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet. Turn the heat to medium-high. Add the balls and cook on all sides until brown and crispy.
Serve with your favorite marinara sauce over spaghetti or any type of pasta you prefer.