Lentil Meatballs with Lemony Pesto

 These vegetarian lentil meatballs are perfect over spaghetti and greens tossed with lemony pesto! #vegetarian #pasta #lentils #healthyrecipe 

Even before I started blogging, I rarely cooked the same dish twice. When people find this out, they're are always astonished, but I'm more shocked that people can eat the same thing day after day. I remember reading the average person has only ten dinner dishes they alternate. How boring! Life is too short to eat the same thing twice. There are too many cuisines to try, spices to mix and new ingredients to experiment with!

I hardly ever repeat the same recipe, but there are a few dishes I frequently experiment with different variations of. Eggplant parmesan, for example, is a summer time staple. I've tried it every which way, from grilled to vegan to classically deep fried. Frittatas frequently make an appearance on our dinner table at least twice a month. Statistically speaking, with all that frittata-ing, I'm sure I've used the same ingredients at some point.

 These vegetarian lentil meatballs are perfect over spaghetti and greens tossed with lemony pesto! #vegetarian #pasta #lentils #healthyrecipe

Lentil meatballs are my newest culinary obsession. Ever since I shared these vegetable and lentil meatballs last fall, I've been using lentils frequently as substitute for ground beef. I turned them into a tangy sloppy Joe filling, made enchiladas, and a classic bolognese, sans beef.

I might describe my original lentil and vegetable meatball as the fall/winter version, with it's rich, umami flavor from caramelized vegetables, tomato paste and plenty of parmesan. These could be the spring/summer version, with a lighter flavor and bright, herby lemon pesto.

 These vegetarian lentil meatballs are perfect over spaghetti and greens tossed with lemony pesto! #vegetarian #pasta #lentils #healthyrecipe

I served these over a bed of whole grain pasta and blanched greens, which I made by cooking spaghetti in salted water and adding a bag of spinach a couple minutes before the pasta was done cooking. You could also serve the lentil meatballs over a bed of sauteed greens, or in a tomato sauce. 


Lentil Meatballs with Lemony Pesto

Serves 4

Adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients

Meatballs:

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup crumbled firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs 

Lemony Pesto:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons water

Pasta:

  • 8 ounces whole grain spaghetti
  • 1 bag baby spinach

Instructions

  1. Place the lentils in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered, until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool. 
  2. While lentils are cooking, make the pesto by blending all pesto ingredients together in a food processor until creamy. Season with salt to taste.
  3. Once the lentils are cool enough to handle, place in a large bowl and mash lightly with a potato masher. It should be half mashed, half whole lentils. Add eggs, olive oil, tofu, Parmesan, garlic, fennel, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs. Stir to combine and set aside for 15 minutes so the flavors blend.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a large baking sheet with olive oil. Form golf ball sized "meatballs" using the lentil mixture. Place each meatball on the baking sheet, spaced evenly apart. Bake the meatballs in the oven until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes, turning halfway.
  5. While lentil meatballs are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. About 30 seconds before draining, add the bag of spinach to wilt. Drain, then toss the hot pasta with the pesto in the pot. Serve pasta topped with lentil meatballs. 

 These vegetarian lentil meatballs are perfect over spaghetti and greens tossed with lemony pesto! #vegetarian #pasta #lentils #healthyrecipe