Lentil-Walnut "Meatballs" with Zoodles & Tomato Sauce (Vegan & Gluten Free)

Think you can't enjoy your favorite classic spaghetti and meatballs as a vegan? Think again! These  "meatballs" are made from lentils, walnuts and veggies for a protein-packed meat alternative that's delicious both on its own and paired with zucchini noodles and tomato sauce.

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Ah yes, another instance of me making Italian food I can enjoy before I go to real Italy, eat ALLTHECARBSANDWINEANDDESSERT and can never eat it here in the US again without being overwhelmingly depressed. Of course that's what I'm up to this week. Aren't you?

I'm gonna be real with y'all for a minute. Growing up, I was never a fan of spaghetti and meatballs, per se. Is it because my dad isn't exactly a ~master chef~ and the noodles were always a touch too gummy? For sure. Is it also because I'd take a slice of bread over a damn noodle any day? Also yes.

His meatballs, though, were damn good. Like, dream-worthy. So, what's a vegetarian to do? Re-create them using lentils and entirely different ingredients, of course! 

You see, the main flavor profile of my dad's meatballs is ONIONS. AND. GARLIC. Which is great and all but when you practically go on dates for a living you don't always want that to comprise your lunch. So, there's a leeeeetle bit of garlic in these, but most of the flavor comes from zesty sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, and fresh parsley. You're welcome, gentlemen.

Can't wait to never make these again after I get back from Italy!!!

Lentil-Walnut "Meatballs" with Zoodles & Tomato Sauce

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To make this dish, you will need:
- 1 medium zucchini, peeled and spiralized
- 1 cup tomato sauce of choice
- 1 cup green lentils, prepared according to package directions
- 1 T olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup gluten free breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 T ground flaxseed meal
- 2 T finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 t red pepper flakes
- 1 t oregano
- Salt & pepper, to taste

Let's begin! Prepare your lentils according to package directions, which will probably look something like combining 1 cup of lentils with 2.5 cups of water, bringing them to a boil, then reducing that heat to a simmer and cooking, covered, 20-30 minutes until tender.

While your lentils are a'cookin', go ahead and preheat your oven to 400F. In a small bowl, combine your flaxseed meal with 3T water and stir well. Let sit for about 10 minutes, until gelled. This will be essentially replacing the egg traditionally used as a binder in meatballs.

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Heat a small skillet over medium heat, then add the olive oil. Add minced garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes until fragrant. Add diced sundried tomatoes and red pepper flakes and cook 2 minutes more, then remove from heat.

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In a large bowl (or food processor, if you have one large enough) combine lentils, garlic and sundried tomato mixture, flaxseed mixture, breadcrumbs, parsley, walnuts and oregano. Use an immersion blender to blend the mixture until combined, but still somewhat chunky (obv if you're using a food processor you don't need an immersion blender I'm just too poor to afford nice things it's fine).

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Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Roll the lentil mixture into medium-sized balls and arrange them on the baking sheet - you should get 12-15, but I won't tell you how to live. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until browned, then remove and allow to cool briefly.

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While the meatballs are cooling, pop your zucchini 1/2 at a time onto your spiralizer and crank away. Heat your zoodles with your tomato sauce in a pan over medium-high heat. Once that's warmed through, separate into two bowls, top with 3-4 meatballs apiece (and a sprig of parsley or some vegan parmesan if you're feeling fancy) and enjoy!

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Vegan meatballs so good, even your meat loving friends will fall head over heels for them. Except that one guy who unmatched me on Hinge because I told him I was vegetarian. That guy doesn't deserve to come close to these balls.

XOXO,
J