If you love Italian food, you may be skeptical of this dish. After all, there's no meat in those meatballs and the pasta is actually a vegetable! Not exactly your typical pasta and meatball dish. But you know what? It's mighty flavorful and delicious. I think you may be able to trick your brain into thinking you are totally indulging in a plate of carbs.
The main ingredient in the meatballs are green lentils. If green lentils are a new item to you, here is the low down on these tiny legumes. Lentils are known for their cholesterol lowering fiber content. Because of this high fiber, lentils are great for managing blood sugar disorders as they prevent blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after eating. In addition to that, they are a good source of minerals, vitamin B, and protein. Lentils are rich in folate and magnesium which benefits are heart and metabolism. Another bonus is one cup of lentils will only cost you 230 calories. And if that weren't reason enough to enjoy them, they actually fill you up so you are left feeling completely satisfied. I love how easy these are to make and how the flavors really come together to make a delicious meatball!
I decided to use my spiralizer to make some zucchini noodles. I think they make a fantastic alternative to regular pasta. You probably think I'm crazy for saying that, but zucchini noodles are not only healthy, they are completely satisfying. I prefer to blanch them for just a couple of minutes, which basically heats them up a bit, but keeps them somewhat firm. Because mushy zucchini noodles, or any noodles for that matter, just aren't that tasty. Another perk that comes with zucchini is it can help you lose weight. Zucchini is extremely low in calories but leaves you feeling full and satisfied. It has a high water content as well as being rich in fiber. Zucchini contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, but the two standouts are maganese and Vitamin C. Some of the health benefits of consuming zucchini regularly are it can ward off diseases like cancer and cardiovascular problems. It has also shown to help decrease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis as it has high anti-inflammatory properties. Zucchini has shown to improve digestion as well. I bet those zucchini noodles are sounding better already!
Choose your favorite marinara sauce to accompany the meatballs and noodles. Top the dish off with a sprinkle of vegan parmesan, and you are ready to enjoy this healthy version of an Italian classic. This gluten-free and vegan friendly meal most certainly makes a fantastic alternative!
1 & 1/2 cup green lentils, cooked
1/4 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup grated vegan parmesan
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 flax egg (1 Tbs flaxseed mixed with 3 Tbs warm water, allow 5-10 minutes to gel)
2 Tbs fresh parsley
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup quinoa, cooked
zucchini noodles or noodles of choice (1 medium zucchini per person)
marinara sauce of choice
1. To prep, cook your lentils and quinoa. Chop the the onion, parsley, and gather the rest of the ingredients for the meatballs.
2. Place all of the meatball ingredients, except for the quinoa, into your food processor. Pulse until combined, still leaving texture. Remove the mixture from your processor into a medium sized bowl. Fold in the quinoa. If time permits, place the bowl into your refrigerator for about one hour. This will allow for easier handling when forming the meatballs. If you don't have the extra time, just go ahead and form the meatballs. They should be about the size of a rounded tablespoon.
3. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and brush them lightly with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes. Flip over and bake for 10 minutes more. You want them to be golden brown.
4. While the meatballs are cooking, prepare your marinara sauce and zucchini noodles. For the zucchini noodles, I use my spiralizer to make the noodles and just do a quick blanch in boiling water for about 1-2 minutes. It just enough to heat and soften slightly. Drain the noodles and you are ready to go! Makes about 18-20 meatballs.