Lentil Meatballs with Lemon-Pecan Pesto Sauce
The pesto-bites are hearty, packed with nutrients and have a bright, unique flavor.
About This Dish
For those who think vegetarian dinners aren't hearty, I give them this recipe. Rich and filling, these nutrition-packed lentil "meatballs" have a surprisingly complex flavor profile, with the distinctive aroma of fennel, a smoky hint of paprika and the punch of red pepper flakes. Another layer of deliciousness is added on with the zesty lemon pesto sauce, which uses pecans for a slightly nutty undertone.
While garlic is a very healthy thing to keep in your diet, I prefer to leave it out of my pesto sauces because it can be an overpowering flavor. But, if you prefer garlic in your pesto, simply add in two cloves of fresh garlic into the food processor when blending up the sauce.
These lentil meatballs also make great leftovers. Wrap them in foil and warm them up in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes, then drizzle them with pesto sauce (or your favorite pasta sauce!).
Inspired by The Sprouted Kitchen.
- Soup pot
- Cutting board
- Kitchen knife
- Mixing bowls
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Food processor or blender
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- 1 cup red lentils
- 2 cups water
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3⁄4 cup light ricotta cheese
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2-3 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2⁄3 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1⁄4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1⁄4 cup pecans
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup packed basil leaves
- 1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
- In a soup pot, combine the lentils and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender and have absorbed all the water. Slightly mash the lentils with a fork until they are a chunky texture. Set them aside to cool.
- In a food processor, combine the pecans, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt. Blend until fairly smooth. Add in the basil leaves, olive oil and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Blend until smooth, adding in a little more olive oil if needed to get a sauce-like consistency.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled lentils, eggs, olive oil, ricotta cheese, fennel seeds, parsley, thyme leaves, red pepper flakes, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir to thoroughly combine. Add in the bread crumbs, and stir until combined.
- Take a spoonful of the mixture and roll a 1-inch round ball in your hands. The mix should be quite moist but hold together well. If it doesn't hold together or is runny, add in a few more bread crumbs (only a little at a time) until the mixture holds together but is still very moist.
- Place the 1-inch balls onto a baking sheet, spaced a little distance apart so they aren't touching. Place the sheet on the center rack of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the lentil balls, then bake 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven.
- Plate the lentil meatballs with the pesto sauce drizzled over the top, and a little extra lemon zest as garnish. Serve and enjoy!
As an alternative preparation idea, you can keep the Parmesan cheese out of the mixture, and instead spread the cheese on a plate or tray. After rolling the lentil mixture into balls, roll the balls over the grated cheese to create a crust. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the lentil balls every 5 minutes to make sure the cheesy crust is evenly browned and crispy.