Technically, I should not be calling these meatballs. Because what is a vegetarian meatball anyway? But, hear me out, do you really know what I'm talking about if I were to say "veggie balls" or "lentil balls", or lentil-and-mushroom-veggie-balls? I think, not so much. Meatballs are a thing, whether they are made of meat or veggies or whatever. So I'm sticking with Vegetarian Lentil Meatballs. And go ahead and tell me all about oxymorons.
The best part of this recipe is that it makes enough for two meals. Because having some of these guys in the freezer is just so, so, awesome.
- If you are worried about gluten, you could easily sub the breadcrumbs for something gluten-free, like ground whole oats for instance. I kinda like the added flavour Italian style bread crumbs provide, so if you go with something else, like panko breadcrumbs or oats, add some Italian seasoning to the mix.
- I used half fava beans and half lentils, only because I was a bit short on the amount of lentils required. You need 4-1/2 to 5 cups of cooked beans. 2 cups dried lentils will cook up to this amount.
- You can use different beans if you wanted - red kidney beans, chickpeas or black beans, etc... go ahead and mix it up. Still I wouldn't use less than half lentils. Lentils give the right texture. I think you will find the result far too pasty otherwise. If using all lentils you can skip the buzz in the food processor step as long as your veggies are chopped small enough. I knew I would be buzzing mine so I got lazy with the chopping part.
- Don't skip the chill and let rest step, it really does help the meatballs to stick together.
- To serve, I find these guys are a bit delicate, it's best to warm them outside of any kind of sauce. To reheat from frozen, allow them to thaw, in a single layer first. Then heat them in a 350 oven on a baking sheet until hot. About 20 minutes, then add to the sauce.
Vegetarian Lentil Meatballs
- 1 19 oz can brown lentils rinsed and drained (about 2-1/2 cups cooked beans)
- 1 19 oz can fava beans rinsed and drained (about 2-1/2 cups cooked beans)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 large onion chopped
- 2 carrots chopped
- 2 celery stalks chopped
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 8 ounces Button Mushrooms wiped clean and sliced
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
- In a large non-stick frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat and saute onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and salt, about 10 minutes, until veggies are soft. Add the tomato paste and cook and stir for an additional 2-3 minutes. Tomato paste will darken and thicken a bit.
- Add the mushrooms and saute for about 15 minutes until mushrooms have softened and released their moisture. All the liquid should be evaporated and absorbed.
- Transfer mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Once cool, place vegetables and fava beans into a food processor and pulse 2-3 times until slightly broken up. (Seriously - this is a quick pulse, don't over do it!) Return mixture to the large bowl and add the lentils, eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley, and walnuts. Mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Refrigerate to chill for 25 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Drizzle the remaining olive oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface.(You can also use cooking spray here). Set aside.
- Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), Pack firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, allowing 1/4-inch of space between the balls. They should all fit on one large cookie sheet.
- Roast for 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through.
- Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving. Or cook completely and store in air-tight container and freeze for up to 1 month.