Lentil “Meatballs” w. Lemon Pesto

September 21, 2013

You may have noticed that I’ve featured several recipes from Sara Forte’s cookbook, The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods. It’s my go-to for healthy and delicious recipes that are simple enough to prepare and my family loves everything that I’ve made so far. A friend brought me a fragrant bunch of fresh basil from her garden so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to make this dish. Sara describes these lentil “meatballs” as both light and hearty at the same time, and she is spot on. We have enjoyed them on their own for a quick lunch or snack and also served over a bed of quinoa, noodles, and sautéed greens for a satisfying dinner.


  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾  cup ricotta
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Few pinches of fresh thyme leaves or dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ⅔ cup GF breadcrumbs

Lemon-Pesto Sauce

  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons water


Put the lentils in a pot with the water and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the lentils are tender, 15 to 20 minutes, adding water if the liquid has evaporated and the lentils are still tough. Drain the lentils are set aside to cool.

Transfer the lentils to a food processor and pulse until it forms a chunky purée. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the eggs, olive oil, ricotta, Parmesan, garlic, fennel seeds, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine well. Stir in the bread crumbs and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the meantime, make your pesto. In a food processor or mini blender, blend the garlic, pine nuts, lemon, and salt until smooth. Add the basil, ¼ cup of olive oil, and Parmesan and pulse again until smooth, adding more olive oil as needed to smooth it out and a bit of water as needed to get a thinner, sauce-like consistency.

Check the lentil mixture by rolling a 1-inch ball together between your palms; it should hold together fairly well. If it seems too wet, add another tablespoon or two of the bread crumbs into the mixture. Roll the lentil mixture into 1-inch balls and arrange them on the prepared baking sheet. hey don’t need a lot of space between. If you like a bit more of a crust, give them a thin brush of olive oil. Bake until the tops are golden brown, gently turning them over halfway through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove to cool slightly.

Serve with a drizzle of pesto sauce.

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