Spaghetti and Meatballs

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Yes, you read that correctly - Spaghetti and Meatballs. But that would be lentil "meatballs" to be exact. I am not really a fan of mock vegetarian food. If I wanted to eat a meatball, I would, well, go and eat a meatball. But anyhow, I really do not want to go and eat a meatball or anything that taste like one, so when I saw a recipe on the Sprouted Kitchen Blog for Lentil "Meatballs" in Lemon Pesto, I was surely not expecting or hoping that these baked lentil balls would be anything like a real meatball. Not that I know anything about real meatballs. I was guessing that these lentil balls would taste something like my Lentil Burgers (recipe for that here), with a bit of fresh pesto for something a little different. My guess was exactly right, these balls (okay mine looked more like drop cookies apparently than balls, seeing as my husband walked into the house and said to the little boy "look, mommy is baking cookies for us in the oven.") taste just like a baked version of my Lentil Burger but with a little twist on flavor.

I was going to serve these Lentil "Meatballs" with roasted vegetables and some sort of grain, but as time slipped away, I thought, ah, what the heck, let's try the whole spaghetti and meatball thing and see what the fuss is all about. And you know what, spaghetti and meatballs are good, really good. Well, this version anyway. I certainly can't imagine a group of well-fed, dark haired, full-blood Italians sitting around a table with a red and white checked cloth in a dark restaurant (how that for stereotyping) biting into a big bowl of these meatballs and being anything short of totally disgusted. But for those of you who are a little more open minded and are will to try something a bit more... exotic, this might be just the dish for you. It is extremely flavorful, hearty yet light, and something different for your Sunday meal.

The recipe I made is below and is an adaptation of the one I found on the Sprouted Kitchen found here. If you haven't seen this blog, you really should check it out. It is totally professional and has beautiful photographs - the very opposite of what is going on around here. I used cottage cheese instead of ricotta only because the store didn't have organic ricotta and I really wanted the organic ricotta that I normally buy... so my mixture was a bit wetter, as a result, and I needed a bit more breadcrumbs than was called for in the original recipe. So, I would recommend using ricotta, if you have it. Oh and I added some super sweet cherry tomatoes to top it all off, that were just, lovely.

Lentil Meatballs with Lemon, Basil and Parsley Pesto

Serves 6

This recipe is adapted from the blog, Sprouted Kitchen.

1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup pinenuts
zest and juice of one lemon
pinch of salt
pinch of fresh ground pepper
1 cup packed basil leaves
1/3 cup packed flat leaf parsley leaves
1/4-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 tablespoons water to thin

2 cups cooked lentils
1 clove garlic, chopped
pinch fennel seeds, crushed
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
pinch of salt
pinch of fresh ground pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 to 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

spaghetti, cooked al dente
cherry tomatoes, cut in half

See cooking note below about cooking the lentils.

While the lentils cook, make the pesto. To make the pesto combine the garlic, pinenuts, lemon zest and juice, salt, pepper, basil and parsley in a large food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. With the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Transfer to another bowl and stir in the Parmesan cheese. If you prefer your pesto a bit on the lighter side add a tablespoon or 2 of water. Set aside.

Place the cool lentils in the food processor (no need to wash the food processor after making the pesto) with the garlic, fennel seeds, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Pulse until completely pureed. Add the beaten egg, ricotta or cottage cheese and Parmesan cheese and pulse until combined. Stir in 2/3 cup of breadcrumbs and let the mixture stand for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. If the lentil mixture seems wet or falling apart add a bit more breadcrumbs. Roll a 1 inch ball of the mixture in your hands and place on the baking sheet. (Or just drop a roundish scoop of dough on the baking sheet as I did.) Continue making the “meatballs” and place them on the baking sheet, fairly close together, as they won’t spread.” Drizzle over a bit of olive oil and bake for 20-25 minutes, gently flipping over the balls half way through cooking. Serve the warm “meatballs” over spaghetti and drizzle over a bit of the pesto. Top with sweet cherry tomatoes, if desired.

Cooking Note: To cook 2 cups of lentils, rinse 3/4 cup dried lentils. Add to a medium size pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain any extra liquid. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.


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