Of course there are commercial vegan meatballs in the store, but in just a short time, you can enjoy a more delicious, more healthful, more affordable, zero-waste, plastic-free version! These are fantastic over traditional pasta or zoodles, pasta made from zucchini!
ADVANCE PREPARATION REQUIRED
2 tablespoons water for sauteing
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup dried brown lentils
2-½ cups water
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds + 3 tablespoons water, blended in a food processor or blender for about 1 minute or until thick and gelatinous
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (Italian-style or plain)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground fennel seed
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste
¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
Marinara sauce of your choosing
In a 4-quart saucepan, heat up the water in a large sauté pan, and add the onion. Sauté over medium-high heat until the onion is translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, and saute for another minute.
Add the lentils, water, and ½ teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer, and let cook for about 25 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. (If there is still some water left in the pot when the lentils have finished cooking, drain it in a strainer. If the water evaporates too quickly for the lentils to properly cook, add a bit more water.
When the lentils are done, place them in the bowl along with the flax seed mixture. Add in the bread crumbs and all the remaining ingredients except the parsley. Taste for salt, and add the remaining ½ teaspoon, if needed.
Mash the mixture with a potato masher or fork until the lentils are broken up and the mixture is sticky enough to hold together when rolled into balls. You want the mixture to be soft but not a paste.
Let the mixture sit covered in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes, up to 24 hours.
When ready to prepare, squish the mixture with your hands. The mixture should be quite wet and able to be formed into balls that will stay together when cooked. If it’s too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If it’s too dry, add a little water.
Taste, and add more salt or other seasoning, if desired.
Shape the lentil mixture into balls of your desired size. You can make them large like golf balls or smaller. To create uniform sizes, use a melon baller or small ice cream scoop.
Next, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the same large sauté pan you used to sauté the onions, or use a nonstick pan to brown the lentil balls. Turn your stove to medium heat. Brown the lentil balls on all sides. If using right away, add them to a large pot of marinara sauce. If not using right away, store them in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Serve with pasta and your favorite marinara sauce with fresh parsley sprinkled on top — or on a hearty roll with sauce and vegan cheese for a meatball sub!
For Your Information
The longer you leave the lentil balls in the marinara sauce, the more they’ll break down, which is still delicious — it becomes more of a “meat” sauce. However, if you’d like them to keep their shape, heat the sauce separately, and pour it onto the pasta and the lentil balls while everything is still hot.
For Your Modification
You can make a gluten-free version with a gluten-free flour of your choice or with rolled oats. Pulse rolled oats in a food processor until they are ground into a powder-like consistency. One cup of whole rolled oats yields the equivalent amount of oat flour.
Soy-free, wheat- and gluten-free (if using wheat-free flour)