Meatless Dinner: “Meatballs” & Creamy Polenta

These plant-based “meatballs” made with lentils, quinoa and Beyond Meat ground “beef” served with creamy polenta, red chard, tomato sauce & oregano will satisfy the omnivores in your family enough for them to request more.

As I’m a lifelong vegetarian-turned-vegan, it’s easy for me not to crave meat, however that said, there were a few rare times that I did. Yes, I’ll admit, after delivering my second child I demanded a steak to eat. (I didn’t actually have a steak, however I did order all the latkes from the deli nearby and completely devoured them.) Also, way back when, after a year of eating only a raw vegan diet, I had too much wine and, while quite soused, scarfed down my boyfriend’s entire lamb burger. Oh, it took me several days to feel better after that one. 

I can assure you, these plump little “meaty” cuties made with plant-based “beef” and lentils will make anyone as happy as a free range cow at a vegan farm.

Just in case you’ve been confusing “plant-based” eaters with “vegans” — there is a difference. 

Plant-based is eating mainly vegetables, fruits, and “plants” and foods made with whole unprocessed ingredients that are not derived from animals. There are plant-based eaters that do also eat meats, animal products, and seafood.

Vegans eat only plants (fruits and veggies) and absolutely no animal anything whatsoever.

As I am mostly vegan (vegan-ish, as I’ll taste a bite of fish now and then, especially around Chef Gordon Ramsay) it certainly does not mean I am incapable of cooking meats and fish. I’m formally trained as a chef, with two years of culinary school in French classic cooking and pastry. I also taught myself the fine art of braising meats many years back, just to learn out of curiosity. As I am currently vegan (if I need to label myself) I do believe in encouraging a “more plants, less meats” approach to eating. This philosophy is for wellness, and also a love for eating all the beautiful fruits and veggies. 

Yet, for the sake of giving you my chef credentials, once I had to break down a whole chicken as part of my culinary training. This is a classic cooking basic for professional chefs. 

Now that I’ve fleshed out my background in meats, I hope you’ll all the more appreciate these meatless “meatballs” made with Beyond Meat ground “beef” and lentils. 

Meatballs with Creamy Polenta

MEATBALLS

  • 4 tbl olive oil 
  • 1 shallot (minced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp flaxseed meal + 2 1/2 tbsp water)
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 1 10oz package of Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles
  • 2 cups steamed lentils 
  • 1 1/2 tbl dried basil + oregano
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 4 tbsp tomato sauce, plus more as needed
  • 5 tbl nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt + black pepper (to taste)

FOR POLENTA

  • 1 cup polenta
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 1/4 cup white cannellini beans, pureéd (with spoonful of nutmilk)
  • sea salt + pepper

FOR SERVING

  • creamy polenta
  • tomato marinara
  • fresh oregano & basil
  • chopped red chard

make meatballs:

  1. Heat oven to 350F degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large pan, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, shallot and garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes, or until golden. Remove from heat and turn off flame.
  3. In a food processor, add flaxseed and water, blend, and let set for 2-3 minutes. 
  4. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, sautéed garlic and shallot, dried herbs, parsley, tomato sauce, nutritional yeast, and a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Pulse, mixing just until combined. 
  5. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt and pepper or herbs for flavor, nutritional yeast for flavor, or more olive oil to moisten.
  6. In a large bowl, add the steamed lentils, Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles, and quinoa. Add the blended ingredients from the food processor into the bowl to combine, stirring all ingredients together. 
  7. Gently mash the lentils with a potato masher or fork to incorporate them into the mix. 
  8. If the mixture is too wet, add some more quinoa or nutritional yeast. If it’s too dry, add some tomato sauce. 
  9. Use a spoon to scoop out small amounts and form small meatballs with your hand to shape into balls. 
  10. Place each meatball on the baking sheet. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes or until they look juicy and cooked through.
  11. While the meatballs are baking in the oven, prepare your polenta and marinara sauce. 
  12. Remove meatballs from oven and serve over creamy polenta (or pasta) with marinara sauce.
  13. Leftover meatballs can be kept in the freezer for 1-2 months. Reheat in a 350F degrees oven until warm and serve with sauce, or add to pot of sauce and cook through. 

make creamy polenta:

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil with a pinch of sea salt. Slowly add in the polenta while whisking. Continue whisking for a few minutes until smooth.
  2. Continue cooking the polenta for 20-30 minutes, whisking often.
  3. Blend the white cannellini beans with a little nut milk. 
  4. Add the vegan butter and olive oil into a saucepan and melt on low heat. Sauté the garlic until lightly golden. 
  5. Turn heat off and whisk in the garlic, olive oil, butter, sea salt, pepper and blended white bean mixture into the polenta. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside for serving. 

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