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Thursday
Dec292011

LENTIL "MEATBALLS" IN LEMON PESTO



I cleaned up all the holiday remnants on Monday. I made piles of what needs to be returned, boxed up the decorations, and dumped our brittle wreath and miniature tree. No offense to you Christmas cheerleaders, but it all becomes a bit much for me - the lists, the toffee, the spending and the formalities. It honestly was a wonderful day, but I think this year, more than ever, we saw most clearly what we wanted from the celebration, or rather what we wanted to contribute to it, and I think next year will look different.

My haste to clean up is a personality trait (a vice sometimes). I like things to be moving forward, to be improving and growing, and the New Year's holiday commemorates that. I made a date with Hugh last year to discuss our resolutions for the sake of accountability and it may be one of the highlights of my marriage to date. You can have a list of three or thirty things that you'd like to take note of as we dance right into 2012, but having some accountability - a person who loves you to listen - makes the list worth making. Last year I scribbled down intentions to master roasting a whole chicken, get certified to teach pilates, save a bit of money for a down payment and have chisled arm muscles. The answers are yes, not yet, yes and errr, working on it? But the point is that I wrote them down, shared and revisited the list and I think it's an exercise worth doing (It may not give you chisled arm muscles but it's good for the spirit).

I really love writing letters. I couldn't write a scholarly essay in college worth reading but I LOVE personal letters. An item on my list this year is to communicate compliments or positive thoughts to people as they cross my mind. I want to send letters of affirmation to friends, or post cards to acquaintences just to say, "I really enjoy your blog" or, "You are super easy to talk to and I like it." Same goes for my husband, to remind him how I appreciate how he always make me laugh, or a note to my family. We'll call them love letters, and I plan on roping Hugh into this because I think men are even more hesitant to compliment each other. I started by writing a letter to Jennie, a woman in the food blogging world who lost her husband suddenly earlier this year (you may remember or participated in "A Pie for Mikey"). I thought of her recently and wanted to write her a letter. Maybe it's weird, because we don't know each other, but I am another woman who can't imagine coping with that kind of loss, so I figured I'd say hi.

The recipe below is one from her site that I've tweaked around a bit for my taste. It's nice to have the little nuggets in the fridge to dip in the pesto sauce for an afternoon snack. I haven't had them with marinara yet, but I imagine that'd be nice as well.

There will be celebrating with close friends this weekend and hopefully another date to discuss resolutions with my beloved.

May the new year exceed your expectations and challenge you.



LENTIL "MEATBALLS" // Serves 4, Makes 18 small balls
Meatball recipe adapted from In Jennie's Kitchen

The sauce I made is less a pesto and more a dressing, as the lemon juice adds quite a bit of acid to it. I thin mine with a bit of water, but if you like it thicker, simply don't add it. Adjust to your personal taste.

In honor of lightening up post-holiday, I like them as is, maybe on some sauteed greens. I don't feel that their "meatball" title necessitates noodles. Anyway, those are decisions I'll leave up to you.

2 Cups Cooked Lentils
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 Cup Ricotta
1/4 Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Large Clove Garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. Fennel Seed, crushed
2 Tbsp. Finely Chopped Fresh Parsley
Hefty Pinch of Dried or Fresh Thyme
1 tsp. Each Sea Salt and Pepper
2/3 Cup Breadcrumbs (fresh or panko, preferably)

Lemon Pesto Sauce

1 Clove Garlic
1/4 Cup Pinenuts
Zest and Juice of one Meyer Lemon
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1 Cup Packed Basil Leaves
1/4 - 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp. Water to thin



In a food processor, pulverize the lentils into mush. Put them in a large mixing bowl.
Add the beaten eggs, ricotta, parmesan, garlic, fennel seed, parlsey, thyme, salt and pepper and stir to mix well. Stir in the breadcrumbs and let the mix sit for 20 minutes.

For the pesto sauce, put the garlic, nuts, lemon zest and juice and salt in a food processor or blender and run until smooth. Add in the basil leaves and olive oil until you get a smooth, sauce-like consistency. Add water, oil or lemon juice to thin as desired. Stir in the parmesan and set aside. The sauce will keep covered in the fridge for about a week.

Preheat the oven to 400'. Check the lentil mix by rolling a 1'' round ball between your palms, it should hold together fairly well. If it seems pretty wet and it falling apart, stir in another Tbsp. or two of breadcrumbs until the ball with stay together.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the mix into balls and line them up on a baking sheet (they don't need lots of space between, they won't spread). If you like a bit more of a crust, brush them with olive oil.

Bake on the middle rack for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown, gently turning the balls over halfway through baking. Remove to cool slightly.
Serve with your favorite noodles, on a bed of sauteed greens, or simply on their own with a nice drizzle of the pesto sauce.

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Reader Comments (126)

Sara, these look so nummy! Finally hopped on your blog. So glad to be introduced to you and Hugh through Rooted. I'm sure Eric will love these healthy recipes!!

Kristina Gulino

February 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristina Gulino

Loved these! Good job. I made them for mine and my husbands lunches last week, my husband was a very happy man. Great use of lentils.

March 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke

I made a DOUBLE BATCH of these last night, so sure was I that they would be great - and I was right! The pesto was the perfect complement to the meatballs, too. I added 2-3x more garlic because I always do, and I used old-fashioned oats instead of breadcrumbs. I think next time I'll let the dough be as stay as possible so they don't dry out too much - I think I added a tad too many oats. Still, the flavor is great and they're perfectly filling. I ate them alongside a giant kale salad last night and again for lunch today. Can't wait to try other recipes!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

These look so pretty and delicious. I would love to make them for a party coming up but with time constraints I was wondering if they would work well as a "make-ahead" item? Have you ever done that and then warmed them up to serve? Thanks! (I love your site by the way!)

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia

I cannot wait to try these!

April 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

I saved this recipe a while back but just got around to making it tonight. So delicious!!

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaty

Made this recipe a few months ago and it was just wonderful. The flavor, the texture, and the pesto sauce on top was just too perfect. I couldn't get enough of these! I think the spice I most enjoyed in this recipe was the black pepper, and I don't normally use it or prefer it that much so this was suprising! I will be making them again tonight and adding them to a kale/bean/leafy green soup

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAleena

Hi, I'm Sonia, italian foodblogger sorry for my bad english, I want tell you that I have included the link of this recipe (which I liked very much) in the section on my blog dedicated to "10 ways to make" ("10 Modi di fare") meatballs. I hope not to bother you, have a nice day
Sonia

November 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersonia monagheddu

Can I just tell you... I've made this a million times already. In fact, I'm eating leftovers right now. IT IS SO GOOD. THANK YOU!!

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Maebird

I bought your cookbook last week and these were the first recipe I made. I hadn't run across them on the site or I would have made them sooner. They are delicious! The pesto is really tasty. Since it is only two of us, I am going to use the extra meatballs for subs ... YUM

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkrystal

My Goodness! THese were DELICIOUS!
I think I stumbled across your page through another blog and this is one of the best vegetarian recipes I think I've found! They're super flavourful and stick together beautifully. I stuffed one "meatball" in each side of a homemade pita and slipped in some hummus and cherry tomato. It would be a fantastic lunch, dinner or quick snack on the weekend! I can't wait to slip my meatballs into loads of different recipes!
Thanks for a yummy dinner, Sarah from Canada

March 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I've made this a few times in the past year plus, and they are always delicious. I usually make a double batch and freeze half - they reheat perfectly. Meat eaters are impressed how they taste like meatballs, only lighter and fresher. The lemony pesto is the perfect complement. This is the recipe that made me buy your book! Cheers, Jen

March 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJen

The flavor profile of this dish was phenomenal. So satisfying and so flavorful with amazing texture. Thank you !

August 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria R.

Yum! I am so grateful that a friend turned me on to your website! :)

October 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNikki M.

First, I have to stop eating this pesto with a spoon while hovering over the food processor. Once I get past that, the combination of flavors with the meatballs is outstanding - I really love the fennel seed in here! Thanks for the great, easy recipe and the drool-inducing photos.

November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrande Plotnick

I just made this (as well as turkey meatballs for my non-vegetarian friends), and the whole group agreed the lentil meatballs were the winners !

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

I recently made these with firm tofu all squished up instead of the ricotta, and they turned out great!

December 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Sara, your lentil 'meatballs' became a staple in my kitchen over the last year - served falafel style with a tahini dressing or Italian with a marinara sauce and I have already given the recipe to a number of friends and family members. The real test came at Christmas - my parents recently decided to follow a mainly vegetarian diet so I was keen to try and give your recipe a Middle Eastern twist to replace the lamb kofte my brother used to make each year - we left out the parmesan and used plenty of chili, star anise, fennel, fresh coriander leaf, garlic and chopped onion and ended up with lentil 'kofte' that are not just a delicious alternative but a delicious dish in its own right - the entire family has asked for your recipe. Oh and 3 months after I made your coconut and nutmeg loaf, my sister still goes on about how good it was. Hope 2014 is off to a good start for you and your growing family and I cannot wait read your new book (and hope things are progressing well with the book).

January 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSophia

I made this this evening and it was a huge hit. Very delicious. Your recipes are always spot on. Thanks so much!

January 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

lovely! is there a way to substitute ricotta for something else?

February 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLena

This looks amaazing! :)

http://cafecraftea.blogspot.com

February 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa

These look incredible! I'd like to give them a try but I was wondering if I could replace the breadcrumbs with toasted quinoa to make them gluten-free. Do you think that could work? Thanks for your lovely blog and recipes :)

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

@sonja - the breadcrumbs provide the gumminess that holds them together. I don't believe cooked quinoa will do this, but you could try either gf breadcrumbs or coarse ground oats as a replacement!

February 24, 2014 | Registered CommenterSara

I think I just pinned half of your recipes for my March meal plan. I can't wait to try them!

March 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa French

I just finished making these and they are delicious! Thanks for the recipe, I plan on serving them at a vegetarian potluck I'm hosting.
Have you ever tried making them using feta instead of parmesan? I know feta is much moister so they would probably need more breadcrumbs. :)

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTracey

I made these last night. Huge hit! Pine nuts are too expensive so I used cashews instead. i also put in some arugula into pesto. So fantastic!

June 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

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