Saturday, 6 September 2014

Lentil ‘meatballs’ with pasta, greens and lemon pesto sauce

Lentils. They were once only the domain of vegans and 70's hippies, but I'm keen to bring them back. Small legumes, full of fibre and protein, they make a wonderful meat alternative, and are a great way to bulk up a meal (without the cost of meat). You can buy them dry or canned and I must say, for me canned is the way to go. No soaking or cooking required, you just open the can, pour into a fine sieve and rinse. 

Brown lentils especially go well as the basis of burgers, rissoles and 'meatballs'. I adapted this recipe from another one I saw floating around the internet and they're super tasty. They work especially well with my homemade basil pesto, but if you don't have the time, you the bought stuff and just add a good squeeze of lemon.

Lentil ‘meatballs’ with pasta, greens and lemon pesto sauce

375g tagliatelle or fettucini
1 leek, sliced
3 C silverbeet, finely sliced
1 large zucchini, cut into matchsticks
½ medium eggplant, cut into matchsticks
1 C beans, halved crossways
1 C broccoli florets

Lentil ‘meatballs’
2x400g cans brown lentils, rinsed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ C reduced fat ricotta
¼ C grated parmesan
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp mixed herbs
2 Tbsp fresh parsley
¾ C breadcrumbs (preferably panko)

Lemon pesto sauce
1 bunch basil (~2 C)
4 Tbsp toasted pinenuts
2 Tbsp grated parmesan
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp water

1. In a food processor, process lentils and parsley until mostly smooth, but some texture still remains. Transfer to a large bowl.
2. Add eggs, ricotta, parmesan, garlic, mixed herbs and breadcrumbs. Stir well and let mix sit for at least 20 mins.

3. Make lemon pesto sauce: in the same food processor process all lemon pesto sauce ingredients until smooth. Add more water to thin further, if desired. Refrigerate until needed.

4. Roll tablespoons of lentil mix into balls and place on lined baking trays. Spray with a little olive oil. If making 'meatballs' ahead of time, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate until needed.
5. Bake lentil ‘meatballs’ at 205°C for 20-25mins or until golden brown.
6. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a saucepan of boiling water and stir-fry greens in a large frypan.

7. When pasta is cooked, drain and toss through vegetables along with lemon pesto sauce. Divide among bowls and top with ~6-8 ‘meatballs' per bowl. Top with extra parmesan.

Serves 6 plus a few leftover ‘meatballs’ for lunches :)

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