Lentils are mixed with traditional meatball ingredients like salty Parmesan, creamy ricotta and fresh garlic. Fennel adds a flavor punch and works well with the fresh thyme and parsley. Homemade pesto completes this dinner and everything is served over fresh arugula for added freshness.
- 2 cups cooked green or red lentils
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ medium onion, finely diced
- 3/4 cup ricotta
- 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian-leaf parsley
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only (or large pinch of dried thyme)
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- 2/3 cup Panko (you can also use breadcrumbs)
- Lemon Pesto Sauce
- One clove garlic
- 1/4 cup pinenuts (you can also use walnuts or almonds)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Pinch of Salt
- 1 Cup packed Basil leaves
- 1/4 - 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
- 1 bag of Arugula
- In a food processor, blend lentils until they are smooth. Put them in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the beaten eggs, onion, ricotta, Parmesan, garlic, fennel seed, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir to mix well. Gently stir in the panko and let the mix rest for about 15-20 minutes.
- While the lentil mixture is resting, make the pesto sauce. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the garlic, nuts, lemon juice, basil, Parmesan and salt a few times. With the food processor on, drizzle the olive oil through the tube, and blend until you get a smooth, sauce-like consistency. Taste and, if you like, add more lemon juice. To make the sauce thinner you can also drizzle in more olive oil. Set the pesto aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Check the lentil mix by rolling a 1'' round ball between your palms, it should hold together fairly well. If it seems pretty wet and is falling apart, stir in another tablespoon, or two, of panko until the ball holds together.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the lentil mixture into balls and line them up on a baking sheet (they don't need lots of space between, they won't spread). If you like a bit more of a crust, brush them with olive oil. You should have about 18-20 “meatballs.”
- Bake on the middle rack for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown, gently turning the balls over halfway through baking. Remove to cool slightly.
- Serve on a bed of arugula and drizzle with pesto.