If my blog self-destructs tomorrow, you’ll know why: I broke it by putting “balls,” “carrot,” and “top” too close together. I tried to avoid it, but there’s no outsmarting search engine algorithms. Whatever happens: It was worth it.
Let me tell you about my b… Let me tell you about these darling vegetarian “meatballs.” I’m not a vegetarian, but I used to be one, which means that both sides either trust me or completely distrust me. In this case, both should trust me — these are fantastic. The lentil-walnut-mushroom combo is an array of earthy, nutty flavors and varied textures.
The dish itself is a bit of a Project, with many steps and components. Whether you go that far or not, I’m going to have to insist that you try the balls. They’re from a cookbook by the lovely Meatball Shop, a Lower East Side gem introduced to me by a spiffy friend a couple years ago on an NYC adventure. It was a late-night trip, which somehow makes for the best memories because details like what exactly we ate or talked about don’t matter. What matters is that we ate meatballs and laughed at our own stupid jokes a lot.
So, I bought the Meatball Shop Cookbook right away, but haven’t actually cooked from it until now. I only made slight adjustments to the recipe: using shiitake mushrooms instead of button and adding a bit of flour to make the mixture more cohesive. The second change may be related to the first one — I really have no idea whether the water content of the two is different. Just use your senses and see if the mixture wants to stay together, and if not, add a bit of flour. You got this… You’re a meatball ninja.
As for the carrot ribbon pasta — that was inspired by (uh, “stolen from” is probably more accurate) the always-enchanting The Kitchn. The pesto, from Bon Appetit. I don’t know what I’d do without either of them. I used dill here because I love that bright, grassy, sassy thang — but basil will work very well too, obviously. Parsley is another great option. You have your own relationship with herbs and I’m just going to stay out of it.
The thin carrot strips get a simple sauté to soften them before being tossed with pasta. After that: Plate, ball, dollop, and grate. Eat.
Oh, and a very happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I’ll be driving, eating, and probably food-coma-napping on my sister’s couch. Good times.
Oh, and another thing! Thanks to all of you who entered the Pinhole Press giveaway — I appreciate it, and you, tons and tons. Jenna and Elizabeth: goodies coming your way, ladies.
Oh, and a third thing. Guess how many “balls” jokes I self-censored out in this post. C’mon, guess.
- 2 cups lentils (any kind, probably--I used green ones)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
- 1 yellow onion, diced finely
- 2 carrots, diced finely
- 2 celery stalks, diced finely
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 8 ounces button mushrooms (note: I used shiitake), wiped clean and sliced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1/4 flour (optional, if needed to bind mixture)
- 1 bunch carrots with tops
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup basil or dill (I used dill--parsley would be great too)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons to sauté the carrots, plus more for pesto consistency as needed
- Juice of 1 lemon, divided use
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces dried pappardelle pasta
- Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
- Bring lentils and 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Reduce to simmer and cook until the lentils are soft but not mushy, 20-25 minutes. Drain and let them cool.
- In a large saute pan, heat up 1/4 cup of the olive oil and sauté the onion, carrots, and thyme over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are starting to brown. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant, then add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute or so. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed. This might take around 15 minutes depending on what kind of mushrooms you used. Add salt, stir to combine, and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
- When lentils and vegetable mixture are cool, stir them together and add eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley, and walnuts and mix until well combined. Refrigerate mixture for 25 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large baking dish and coat evenly.
- After lentil mixture is chilled, try to form it into 1 1/2-inch balls. It won't come together as easily as ground meat, but it should hold if you pack them tightly. If the mixture is somewhat loose, stir in about 1/4 cup of flour until combined and try again. You should be able to get 24 balls from the mixture. Arrange them in the casserole dish.
- Roast until browned and cooked through, about 30-35 minutes.
- Wash carrots and tops well and trim the leafy parts of the carrot tops. Set aside about 2 cups of the carrot tops and combine in a food processor or blender with garlic, walnuts, basil or dil, and Parmesan until smooth. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Add more olive oil if needed for desired consistency.
- Peel the carrots and use a peeler to slice them into thin strips. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the carrot strips. Saute for 3-5 minutes, until soft. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the carrots and toss to coat.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to rolling boil and add pasta. Cook according to package directions (or your senses) until al dente, 8-10 minutes. Drain and add the cooked pasta to carrot strips and toss to combine. Serve pasta with meatballs, pesto, and freshly grated Parmesan.
- Note that this recipe makes 2 dozen meatballs--twice as much as you need for the amount of pasta. Freeze the extras--or just, you know, eat them as is.