Polpette al Sugo (Vegan Italian-Style Lentil Meatballs in Cherry Tomato Sauce)
“Polpette al Sugo” ~ We all have a recipe that is close to our heart, one that takes us back to our childhood. But if there is one that is loved by most, especially children, that is meatballs with tomato sauce!
This is my vegan version with lentils, spices and 2 secret ingredients that will make them extra juicy!
Vegan meatballs sometimes tend to be quite dry and fall apart. But these will have a wonderful texture and come together very easily thanks to the addition of a couple of ingredients. Read on to find out.
Ingredients (for 2)
For the lentil meatballs:
1 cup dried brown lentils
2 cups veggie stock (or water)
1 small banana shallot
2 cloves garlic
A handful of sun-dried cherry tomatoes, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, then drained
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp pine nuts (or chopped walnuts)
1 tsp tomato concentrate *secret ingredient #1
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses *secret ingredient #2
2 tbsp olive oil
For the cherry tomato sauce:
1 can (400g) cherry tomatoes
1 small onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely minced
2 tbsp evo oil, divided
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1 tbsp tomato concentrate
A few parsley leaves, to garnish
Pressure cook the lentils in veggie stock (or water) and 1/2 tsp of salt for 20 minutes. Release the pressure and allow the lentils to cool down a bit. They should have absorbed all the stock, but if not, drain them in a colander. They should squish easily if pressed between two fingers but still hold their shape.
Transfer them to a food processor, along with all the other ingredients, minus the sesame and olive oil, and blend by giving intermittent pulses - you don’t want the texture to be completely smooth, but rather quite coarse. Add the sesame seeds and give it one brief mix to amalgamate.
Wet your hands with water and shape the mixture into 16 small meatballs and place on a plate. They should come together easily but if they are too wet, you can add 1 tbsp of flour if necessary.
Heat the olive oil in a wide pan and shallow fry the meatballs until browned on all sides. Set aside.
Now for the sauce - to the same pan, add 2 more tbsp of olive oil and when it’s hot, add the garlic and onion. Sauté on medium heat until they both start to brown.
Stir in the cherry tomatoes and season with salt and sugar. Reduce the heat to medium-low, then add the coriander, cumin and pepper. Mix well, cover with a lid and allow to cook for 20 minutes, adding half a cup of water if it gets too dry.
When the oil starts to separate, add the lentil meatballs, and cook uncovered for another 2-3 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately with bread.
Word of the Day
(Meatball, used also to indicate non-meat patties, pronounced pol·pét·ta)