Main Dishes, Pasta, Recipes

Spaghetti and “Meat” Balls

It was here. It was the night. The night of the great meatball fake out!

To show my dedication to such a deception an act, I came home from campus early. I absolutely had to make sure the kitchen was clear of my meat-lovin’ husband so I could work in peace.

See, I had told him earlier that week that we were having meatballs for dinner. But I wasn’t specific about what kind of meatballs. [As if you should have to ask a question like that, Ben later said.] Little did he know that my plans included lentils, ricotta, and pesto. All of which are valued higher than meat in my world. Ha.

I whipped up these “meat” balls in a jiffy, and had dinner plated up when he walked in the door. “Hey sweetie, mmm… dinner smells good,” he said. We sat down and prayed, and then dug right in. “This… this… what is this?”

I turned to him with a grin, and sweetly said, “spaghetti and meatballs… with a twist. Same seasonings, a dollop of cheese… but lentils, not beef.”

He took one bite, and then put his fork in for more. Pretty soon round two approached. Success! I thought, as I sighed in relief. He likes them, even though they are not meat.

Just so we are clear… my deception was all in fun, just a jest. My husband is so accommodating of all my “weird” food requests/attempts, but sometimes it’s easier just to pull the wool over his eyes [so to speak… thanks Benny!]. But do not be afraid–the wool is not being pulled over your eyes when I say that these “meat” balls are the best. They are a simply delicious vegetarian option to a classic dish that I hope you do try soon!

Have you ever engaged in dinnertime deception?

Spaghetti and “Meat” Balls [adapted from The Lean Green Bean]
printable version


  • 2 cups lentils, cooked
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 4 tablespoons pesto
  • 1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • spaghetti sauce
  • 12 ounces whole wheat spaghetti


First, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Then, place a pot full of salted water on the stove to boil for the noodles.

Next, make the “meat” balls. In a food processor, combine lentils and pulse several times until coarse. Then add the ricotta, pesto, onion, oregano, parsley, and black pepper. Pulse again until combined. Remove to a large bowl and stir in Panko breadcrumbs. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary, then form into balls using your hands. Place on baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, flipping after 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta to al dente. When pasta is ready, drain and return to pot. Add spaghetti sauce to noodles and stir to coat. Cover to keep warm until “meat” balls are ready. When they are, remove from oven and allow to cool for a minute before stirring in the sauce. Serve with extra parmesan cheese on top and enjoy!

Note: You can also add 2 eggs to the “meat” balls; I neglected to do that but it was in the original recipe.

Time: 45 minutes.

Yield: about 20 “meat” balls, 5-6 servings.