If you’ve committed to a plant-based diet, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your favourite meals, like meatballs and spaghetti. Eating spaghetti is a treat for hubby and I, not a weekday meal on repeat. These balls are hearty, flavoursome and gluten free with a tasty, simple tomato sauce that could steal the flavour show. We tend to go all out and make batches of this special sauce and freeze small amounts in meal-sized bags, ready for a quick meal. The savoury ball recipe, made of lentils, mushrooms and quinoa, is an easy process, and can be made ahead of time and frozen for up to a three weeks in a small bag (if they last that long). I also like to use a few balls on a bun with salad and drizzle both tomato sauce and garlic and lemon aioli between layers (see recipe>basics) for a super burger.
Health benefits –
· Lentils are a good source of fibre, protein, complex carbohydrates and iron.
· The high levels of soluble fibre in lentils help reduce blood cholesterol.
LENTIL MUSHROOM BALLS
Makes approx. 18 balls
400 grams (14 oz.) gluten-free spaghetti
For the lentil & mushroom balls:
1 brown onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil or ghee
400 gram tin (14 oz.) brown lentils, rinsed
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon tamari
1 handful fresh oregano
1 handful fresh sage leaves, chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried sage)
pinch cayenne pepper
½ cup quinoa flakes
1 slice gluten-free bread, blend into rough crumbs
water of 400ml tin of unsalted chickpeas
1 tablespoon tomato paste
To make lentil & mushroom balls: Preheat the oven to 180’C (350’F/Gas Mark 4). On medium heat, pour oil into a frying pan and sauté onion until it's translucent. Blend mushrooms in blender until chopped, add lentils and blend a little but not into mush. Pour into a bowl. Add herbs, tamari, garlic, quinoa, breadcrumbs, chickpea water, and mix until mixture comes together. Add extra quinoa flakes if too moist. The mixture should be quite wet. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Roll mixture into small balls with moist hands, and place on baking paper on a baking tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the outside of the balls are crunchy.
Heat pre-made tomato sauce. Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water for 1 minute less than given time on the packet as the spaghetti will continue to cook in the sauce. Drain spaghetti, add some of the tomato sauce mixture and combine gently. Twirl pasta into serving bowls. Top with balls and add extra spoonfuls of tomato sauce. You may instead mix the tomato sauce in the pasta before serving. Add roughly chopped basil or parsley and serve.
For the tomato sauce:
3 garlic cloves
¼ cup olive oil
1 kilo (2 lb. 2 oz.) in season cherry tomatoes
700 grams (1 lb. 5 oz.) passata
2 springs thyme or oregano leaves
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons salt
freshly ground pepper
Optional extras: ½ cup basil leaves, chilli, paprika
To make tomato sauce: Grate 2 onion and 3 cloves garlic to release acidity. Saute onion and garlic in oil for 4-5 minutes. Add in-season halved cherry tomatoes. Cook down to release sweetness. Add a bottle of passata, 2 sprigs of thyme/oregano, a bay leaf, salt and pepper and simmer gently for 30 minutes. May add extras here in the cooking sauce. Freeze in small bags or bottle for immediate use.