This recipe was inspired by Sara Forte’s (sproutedkitchen.com) Lentil ‘Meatballs’ with lemon pesto, which, while delicious, are quite hearty, and I was looking for something light that I could throw in with spaghetti. I find pasta is such an easy go-to meal on days I get home late from the hospital, but wanted to find a way to add a bit more (vegetarian) protein. This recipe takes a bit of time but makes a big batch which freezes well so you have heaps of ‘meatballs’ on hand that reheat easily in a bit of tomato sauce.
2.5 cups cooked lentils (I like Puy, but plain brown lentils would work here too)
1 large eggplant
1 small zucchini, grated
3 cloves garlic, diced
Pinch of dried chilli and dried oregano
250g ricotta cheese
3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
A couple of basil leaves, torn
Preheat oven to 180˚C. Cut the eggplant in half lengthways and score it in a criss-cross pattern deeply (but not piercing the skin). Rub with a generous amount of olive oil. Bake in the oven until the flesh is soft, around 45 mins. Scoop out the flesh and smash to a chunky paste.
Saute the grated zucchini with the garlic, a little olive oil and the dried chilli and oregano until the zucchini has softened.
Puree the lentils in a food processor (or mash by hand) leaving some a bit chunky.
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and season. Roll into balls about the size of a tablespoon. The mixture should be quite wet, but if it won’t form balls at all add some more breadcrumbs. Brush the tops of the balls with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes or until they have some colour.
When they have cooled use them in the dish below or freeze in snap locks for later use in spaghetti, meatball subs etc.
Spaghetti with Lentil-Eggplant-Ricotta ‘Meatballs’
This is not really a recipe but anyway:
Make a basic tomato sauce with garlic, dried oregano, passata and a splash of red wine vinegar; set aside. Cook spaghetti according to packet instructions. When nearly ready place your ‘meatballs’ in the tomato sauce to let them soak up some tomatoey goodness. Top the spaghetti with a couple of ‘meatballs’, as much sauce as you like and a generous grating of parmesan or pecorino. Add a couple of fresh basil leaves and a good sprinkle of black pepper to finish it off.