The Meatball Shop's Veggie Balls
Try This Great Vegetarian Option
These vegetarian meatballs are a great alternative to the original.
Combine the lentils and 2 quarts water in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft (but not falling apart), about 25 minutes. Drain the lentils and allow to cool.
Add ¼ cup of the olive oil to a large frying pan and sauté the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, and salt over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown. Add the tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 more minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, add the lentils to the vegetable mixture.
Add the eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley, and walnuts to the cooled vegetable mixture and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Place in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.
Roll the mixture into round, gold ball-size meatballs (about 1 ½ inches), making sure to pack the vegetable mixture firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, allowing ¼ -inch of space between the balls and place them in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid.
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.
For the pesto:
Fill a large stockpot three-quarters full with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
Meanwhile, spread out the walnuts on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 12 minutes, giving them a shake after 6 minutes. Continue roasting until golden brown and toasted. Set aside and allow to cool thoroughly.
Fill a large bowl halfway with ice and water, and set it close to the sink.
Dump the spinach and basil into the boiling water and stir. After 1 minute, strain the greens, and plunge them into the bowl with ice water. Drain the greens again and squeeze them tightly to get as much water out as possible. Chop the greens roughly.
Combine the greens and walnuts with the salt, olive oil, and Parmesan in a food processor and process until a smooth consistency is reached. Taste and season with additional salt, if desired.
This recipe was styled by chef Karen Pickus for Good Morning America.
From the book, THE MEATBALL SHOP COOKBOOK by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow. Copyright (c) 2011 by Michael Holzman and Daniel Chernow. Reprinted by arrangement with Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved."