On day two of our use-it-or-lose it cooking project, I defrosted a pound of ground beef that's been in the freezer since the summer and made meatballs for the two omnivores in the house. I got creative and made lentil-balls for our little vegetarian, Chloe.
After staring at a bag of dried lentils for a few minutes like a cat staring blankly at a sink drain, I decided to experiment and make “meatballs” out of cooked and pureed lentils.
First, I boiled ½ cup of lentils in water for about 25 minutes until they were soft, then drained them and buzzed them smooth in a food processor.
Treating the lentil puree exactly as I would ground beef, I added all of the secondary ingredients from my go-to meatball recipe: About 1 cup of panko-style breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, an egg, ½ teaspoon of garlic powder, ½ teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and about a tablespoon of olive oil. I mixed it all together; scooped and shaped the mixture into balls; and baked them on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes per side at 350 degrees.
|Lentil balls, before baking|
I had no spaghetti, (no grocery shopping allowed, remember?) so I used veggie elbow macaroni that I had on hand.
I had no spaghetti sauce either (sigh), so I made that, too, by simmering for about an hour the contents of a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes in heavy puree (why did I ever buy this? I don’t remember buying this.); 2 tablespoons of tomato paste; ¼ cup of red wine (which I somehow always have on hand); ¼ cup of olive oil; 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, a tablespoon of salt, and some garlic powder.
Although Brian and Chloe don’t eat tomato sauce on pasta, we all agreed that the varied balls had a better taste and texture after simmering for a little while in the sauce.
The verdict? It was all a hit! Especially the lentil balls, which got an enthusiastic seal of approval from all three of us. For real...I’m as surprised as you are, to be honest. I’ll definitely make the lentil balls again. It’s a (MUCH) cheaper and healthier alternative to meatballs, and I never would have discovered it without our little project.