I ran across this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, but of course, she used meat in her meatballs (imagine that!). I loved the idea, but wanted something that was veggie based and still tasted good. I searched high and low and found a recipe straight from the famed Meatball Shop. Let me tell you, they did not disappoint! Like, at all! They were the most succulent, tasty, incredible "meatballs" ever! And then when topped with the pesto aioli and baked in the oven....perfect-o! Like seriously, these little subs were insane! They do take a bit of prep, but I promise they are worth it all!
2 cups lentils
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp salt
6 tbs tomato paste
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped
3 large eggs
3 tbs ketchup
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs (plus more if needed)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 finely chopped raw walnuts
Pizza sauce for topping
Combine the lentils and 2 quarts of water in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low and simmer until lentils are soft but not falling apart, about 25 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Add 1/4 cup of olive oil to a large sauté pan and sauté the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and salt over medium-high heat, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes, or until tender and beginning to brown. Add tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until all liquid is absorbed. Transfer the mix to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, add the lentils to the vegetable mix.
Add the eggs, Parmesean, ketchup, bread crumbs, parsley and walnuts to the cooled veggies and lentils and mix together until thoroughly incorporated. Place in the fridge for 25 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the remaining olive oil into a 9x13 baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.
Roll the veggie/lentil mixture into round golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the vegetable mix firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, allowing 1/4 inch of space between the balls. Scoop a dollop of pizza sauce on top of each meatball.
Roast for 30 minutes or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish.
note: this made a lot more then what I made so I flash froze what I didn't need and will save for a later date!
2 tbs roughly chopped garlic
1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped arugula
1/4 cup chopped basil (or 2 tsp squeezable basil blend-which I use in the winter months)
1/4 cup raw almonds
3 tbs olive oil (more if needed)
2 tbs freshly grated romano cheese
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
1/4-1/2 cup vegenaise
Combine everything except the vegenaise in a food processor and process until a smooth paste is formed. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
To assemble the subs
whole grain buns
sliced smoked provolone cheese
Adjust the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the top half of the bun with some of the pesto aioli and the bottom half with the pizza sauce. Place a few meatballs on the other side and top with a bit more sauce. Add a slice of cheese and put the sub together. Wrap in a piece of aluminum foil and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the cheese is melty and the bread is toasted.