I’d like to applaud myself for being creative this winter with food. I never made a recipe more than once unless it was something I was just dying to eat. And not once have I brought home out of season produce, even when the hydroponically grown strawberries taunt me at the farmers market. And while I’m eagerly awaiting fresh asparagus like the rest of you, I’m still content with eating my winter squash and dried beans. Honestly, I think there might be something wrong with me…
If you’re not feeling the cellar produce and soaked beans like I surprisingly still am, I’m hoping this recipe will give you some hope. We still have a few more weeks until spring and these Lentil Balls with Lemon Pesto are about as light and fresh as winter food gets.
The secret is in the Lemon Pesto. By adding some lemon zest and juice to the pesto, you add in some bright, yet seasonal, flavor. The Lentil Balls are light and hearty all at once. Right out of the oven, they alone make the perfect lunch. And if you want to dial things up for dinner, toss the Lemon Pesto with some spaghetti squash and top with a few Lentil Balls.
Here is hoping we can make it until spring. I know most everyone is craving the sunshine and some snow-free streets. Soon enough, my friends, soon enough!
- 1 Cup of French Lentils
- 2 Cups of Water, plus 2 Tablespoons for the Lemon Pesto
- 2 Eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil, plus ½ Cup for the Lemon Pesto, plus extra for brushing
- ⅓ Cup of Ricotta
- ¼ Cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated, plus 2 Tablespoons for the Lemon Pesto
- 3 Cloves of Garlic, 2 minced for the Lentil Balls, 1 whole for the Lemon Pesto
- ½ teaspoon of Fennel Seeds
- 2 Tablespoons of Fresh Parsley, minced
- Pinch of Dried Thyme
- 1 teaspoon of Sea Salt, plus a Pinch extra for the Lemon Pesto
- 1 teaspoon of Pepper
- ⅔ Cup of Fresh Bread Crumbs
- ¼ Cup of Pine Nuts
- 1 Meyer Lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 Cup of Fresh Basil Leaves
- Bring the 2 Cups of Water to a boil on the stove in a medium sized pot. Add in the Lentils, reducing the heat to a simmer and allowing them to cook for 20 minutes. Drain the Lentils, and set them aside to cool.
- Place the Lentils in your food processor and pulse them until they form a chunky puree. Move the Lentils to a large bowl and combine them with the Eggs, 1 Tablespoon of the Olive Oil, Ricotta, ¼ Cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, 2 Cloves of Minced Garlic, Fennel Seeds, Parsley, Thyme, 1 Teaspoon of the Sea Salt, and Pepper. Stir everything until it is well combined and then add in the Bread Crumbs. Stir everything again, and then set the bowl aside for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
- Meanwhile, you can start making the Lemon Pesto. Clean out your food processor, then blend together the remaining Clove of Garlic, Pine Nuts, Lemon Zest and Juice, and the remaining Pinch of Salt until smooth. Next, add in the Basil, ¼ a Cup of the remaining Olive Oil, and the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano, pulsing again until smooth. You can add 2 Tablespoons of Water to get a thinner, sauce-like consistency if you like. Put the Lemon Pesto in a jar and cover with the remaining ¼ Cup of Olive Oil, which will prevent the air getting to the Lemon Pesto and turning it brown. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freezer for a month. When you are ready to use, stir in the Olive Oil on top before serving.
- Preheat your oven to 400F and line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
- Check the Lentils to see if they are ready to be rolled by rolling a 1-inch ball of the mixture with your hands. If it is too wet, you can add in a Tablespoon more of Bread Crumbs, and if it is too dry, you can add in a Tablespoon more of Water. Continue to make 1-inch balls, placing them on the lined baking sheet about an inch apart. I like to use an ice cream scoop to measure out the Lentils so they are all somewhat equal.
- Once you have finished making balls with your Lentil mixture, brush the tops of them with a bit of Olive Oil. Bake the Lentil Balls in the oven for 30 minutes, turning them halfway through with a pair of tongs or a spoon. They should be browned when they are done, and if they are not, add additional baking time checking on them every few minutes.
- Remove the Lentil Balls from the oven allowing them to cool. Serve drizzled with a bit of the Lemon Pesto Sauce.