Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Naked Balls

The Meatball Shop in New York is such a gem! (what did you think I was talking about??)  That might sound strange coming from a vegetarian but The Meatball Shop is not just for meat-eaters. They have the most amazing Veggie Balls too!

The menu is simple.  You order “naked balls” (choose from classic beef, spicy pork, chicken or veggie) and then you select a sauce (choose from classic tomato, spicy meat sauce, mushroom gravy, parm. cream or pesto). You can also order sandwiches but I recommend sticking with the “naked” balls. My favorite combo is the veggie balls + pesto…sooo good! If you go, make sure to save room for dessert. The homemade ice cream sandwich is definitely splurge-worthy!

 The only problem with The Meatball Shop is that you usually have to wait for at least an hour to get a table so I was more than thrilled when my sister, Bryn, found the recipe for their Veggie Balls online in a NYT write up.
I made them recently on a Sunday and I ate them throughout the week. I put them over a spinach salad, I ate them as a “meatball” sandwich with pesto and I also enjoyed them “naked” with a simple tomato sauce.These veggie balls actually stay together and are the closest thing I have found to the texture and consistency of a real meatball. The only thing I would do differently next time is to make sure I fully cook the lentils… they were a little undercooked this time and although the “crunchy” texture wasn’t bad, I bet they will taste even better next time!

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Enjoy the bites.
Veggie Balls
2 cups lentils
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
8 ounces button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
3 large eggs
1/2 cup grated rennet-free Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1. Combine the lentils and 2 quarts water in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft but not falling apart, about 25 minutes. Drain the lentils and allow to cool.

2. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil to a large frying pan and sauté the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and salt over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown. Add the tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 more minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, add the lentils to the vegetable mixture.

3. Add the eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley and walnuts to the cooled vegetables and lentils and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Place in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.

5. Roll the mixture into round golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the vegetable mixture firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, allowing 1/4 inch of space between the balls and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid.

6. 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 before serving.

Yield: About 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch meatballs.


  1. woooo! so excited to make these! i LOVE the meatball shop. and i love your ideas about how you ate them. thanks!

    1. Meg- I hope you will let me know how yours turn out and how you enjoy the bites!