Vegetarian Mains

Italian Lentil Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce

A meatless alternative to a dinner classic, these lentil “meatballs” are a delicious, healthy dinner that’s budget-friendly as well!

Ever since I made these buffalo lentil meatballs, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of making an Italian version. And it’s been a long process. Until the buffalo meatballs, which don’t need a whole lot of flavoring thanks to the flavor-punch from the buffalo sauce, these meatballs required just the right amount of Italian seasoning that for some reason I just couldn’t get right. I tried various combinations of dried oregano and basil as well as paired the meatballs with different sauces, but something just kept tasting “off”. Luckily, after looking over tons of meat and meatless versions of Italian-style meatballs, I decided to go with an Italian seasoning blend as well as add some tomato paste and soy sauce – yes, soy sauce. And the result? Delicious!

These Italian-style lentil meatballs could not be easier! And most of the ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. As long as you have a food processor, you’ll be set to go!

What you’ll need:   

  • Dry green or brown lentils
  • Tomato Paste
  • Soy sauce
  • Rolled oats
  • Dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
  • Tomato sauce

I made a simple tomato sauce adapted from The Food Lab cookbook consisting of butter, oil, canned peeled tomatoes, a diced shallot, dried Italian seasoning, and a pinch of salt and pepper. For a totally vegan option, nix the butter and just use slightly more oil.

What kind of canned tomatoes to use in pasta sauce?

When fresh tomatoes aren’t in season, you can still make a great tasting sauce using whole peeled canned tomatoes. Why whole peeled? Whole peeled tomatoes are softer and break down better than diced tomatoes, and have a more consistent texture, unlike crushed tomatoes which can be either more paste-like or roughly mashed. I also find the taste of whole peeled tomatoes to be less aluminum-tasting. The key is to buy good-quality canned tomatoes, rather than just reaching for the cheapest can. Cento San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes are always a safe choice as well as Muir Glen Organic Whole Tomatoes. 

Why are lentils good for us?  

Lentils are a staple of a healthy diet, not only because they’re budget friendly, but because they pack a serious nutrition punch for few calories. As lentils are an excellent source of fiber, they can help reduce high cholesterol, promote a healthy digestive system, and stabilize blood sugar. They’re also a lean source of protein as well as contain good amounts of folate and magnesium – both of which are key for heart health!  

I’d love to hear what you think of these lentil meatballs! Drop me a comment below or tag me on Instagram @TheHealthyToast_RD!

Italian Lentil Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce

A meatless alternative to a dinner classic, these lentil “meatballs” are a delicious, healthy dinner that’s budget-friendly as well!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Healthy Dinner, Vegetarian
Servings: 4
Author: Kelli

Ingredients

For the Sauce:

  • ½ shallot diced
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Pin salt and pepper
  • 28- oz can peeled tomatoes crushed either with a masher or food processor
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes

For the meatballs:

  • ¾ cup dry green or brown lentils
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • Optional: pinch red pepper flakes

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. While oven is preheating, place dry lentils in small pot and add enough water to cover lentil by about an inch. Place on stove over high heat and bring to a boil. Boil uncovered for 20 minutes, or until soft but not mushy. Drain water.
  • Place cooked lentil, oats, tomato paste, 2 tsp Italian seasoning, vinegar, soy sauce, salt, and pepper in food processor. Pulse on high until combined, but not too mushy – there should still be a few whole lentils and oats. Roll into 22-23 balls and place on a baking sheet. Bake lentils for 22 minutes, or until browned.
  • While lentils are cooking, place butter and olive oil in medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Once butter has melted, add shallots, salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Gently simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until thickened.
  • Once lentils are cooked, add to tomato sauce and toss to combine. Enjoy with a salad or roasted vegetables and crusty bread for a complete meal!

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  • Patrick@looneyforfood.com
    November 28, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    I love lentil meatballs! These would be great as part of s meal prep

    • The Healthy Toast
      December 3, 2018 at 7:00 pm

      They’d be awesome for meal prep! Let me know what you think if you try them 🙂