Update: Roasted broccoli “meatballs”

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Yes this is an old picture (busted!) but I felt like this post needed a revamp given how much I have changed this recipe over the last couple of years. Veggie meatballs with spaghetti have become quite the staple in our house – it is a good way to add some veggies and protein to an otherwise carb-heavy meal, and makes a pack of spaghetti go a lot further so I can stock the freezer for busy days. There seems to be a lot of busy days at the moment. I am on a research term currently, which is fantastic, but it is quite a bit of work to juggle with my Masters, volunteering, and applying for my first real job as a doctor. There are many cover letters to write and a CV to perfect, so I have been a bit distracted. That being said, I have been doing reasonably well with keeping our freezer stocked at the moment and thought I would include a little list of what it is stocked with:

  • This Goan feast, which I have mentioned before
  • Low sugar (i.e. date-free) bliss balls: lemon cheesecake and cherry ripe flavours. These have been awesome and I am doing some final tweaking but will post them soon.
  • This decadent lasagne, great for winter. It has a sour cream béchamel which is beautiful.
  • A modified version of this beet bourguignon, with french lentils and mashed potato
  • Broccoli and bean enchiladas

But, back on topic, the meatballs! After many refinements, I have come up with a new favourite version:

Roasted broccoli, lentil and ricotta “meatballs”

1 big head broccoli (or 2 small)

Dried chilli flakes (pinch)

1 tin lentils, rinsed (tinned seems to work better texturally but freshly cooked works too, you will need ~1.5 cups)

1 clove garlic, roughly chopped

400g ricotta, firmer is better

1 egg

Olive oil spray

Chop the broccoli into florets and toss into a tray with some olive oil, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Don’t forget to add the stalk chopped up as well, it is delicious. Pop in a 200˚C oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges of the broccoli are brown and crispy. Add to the food processor with the lentils, garlic, ricotta and egg. Process until combined but still some chunks. Shape roughly into balls and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Spray (or brush) balls with olive oil. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the balls are just starting to be tinged golden brown. Can be served with a whole bunch of different things, but I love them with spaghetti. I make a puttanesca-ish sauce with pasta, capers, olives, chilli, parsley, lots of garlic and a splash of red wine vinegar. Add some toasted pine nuts and grated parmesan on top and you have a pretty special meal. Freeze really well so can be added to lots of other dishes for a hit of protein.

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Spaghetti and Lentil-Eggplant-Ricotta “Meatballs”

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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.

Lentil-Eggplant-Ricotta “Meatballs”

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

2 eggs

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.