When Lu and I first started dating, I remember being immediately impressed by all the cool places he knew about in the city.
He would casually say, “Oh, I know this spot right around the corner” as we were walking around.
A few years ago, one of those places was The Meatball Shop.
Still to this day, I’m blown away by The Meatball Shop. Not only are their meatballs legit (although, still not as good as my Pops’s meatballs), they have such a variety of options on thier menu, that literally, you couldn’t find one person in this world that couldn’t find something for their preferences on that menu.
The Meatball Shop is always bustling with cool people, playing cool music and the waiters are so happy to be serving up ‘balls every day!
I could go on and on about their meatballs, but I won’t, because, well, this isn’t a restaurant review blog, but, if you are in NYC or planning a visit, make sure you check this place out.
The last time I was there, I thought to myself, “Dang, if there was just an option on this menu for ‘balls over zucchini noodles, now that would be perrrrrfect!” ‘Cuz you know, a girl’s gotta watch her figure and I can’t be eating meatball subs without turning into a sub myself.
This was a while ago – I haven’t been to The Meatball Shop in months.
The other day, I got a random craving for their veggie balls, but I was nowhere near a Meatball Shop. So what’s a girl to do? Inspiralize!
Since the veggie balls take a pretty long time (well, longer than my usual recipes) to make, I used a canned tomato basil sauce instead of making a fresh one. You know, I love my Rao’s – I never leave the grocery store without it.
I lightened this dish up by not only using zucchini noodles, but by using almond breadcrumbs instead or regular panko and adjusting a couple other ingredients. You can find the original recipe by The Meatball Shop here.
A quick note about the recipe – don’t be afraid if the lentil meatball mixture seems too loose – it thickens and hardens in the oven, just be sure to cook for the entire 30 minutes!
Long story short, we have Lu to thank for today’s recipe.
Nutritional Information & Recipe
Weight Watchers PointsPlus*: 9 points
*These points were calculated using the official Weight Watchers PointsPlus® calculator. We are in no way affiliated with Weight Watchers, we are providing this information based on popular demand.
- For the meatballs:
- 1 cup lentils
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + more to drizzle (about ½ tablespoon)
- ½ red onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 1.5 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
- 1 egg + 1 egg white
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese + more to garnish
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
- For the breadcrumbs (makes about ¼ cup):
- 4 tablespoons almond flour
- 2 tablespoon water
- For the pasta:
- 4 medium zucchinis
- 1.5 cups favorite canned tomato sauce (I love Rao’s Tomato Basil sauce)
- Combine the lentils and 4 cups of 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 20 minutes. Drain the lentils and allow to cool.
- Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a large skillet and cook the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and season with salt and pepper over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 7 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.
- In a small mixing bowl, add in the almond flour and water and massage with hands until dough-like. Place a medium skillet over medium-high heat and once heated, add in the dough, crumbling into pieces with your fingers. Break the dough up with a wooden spoon or spatula and let toast until breadcrumb-like, yielding about ¼ cup. Set aside.
- Add the eggs, Parmesan, prepared breadcrumbs, parsley and walnuts to the cooled vegetables and lentils and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Place in the refrigerator for 25 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Drizzle the olive oil into a baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.
- Roll the mixture into round golf ball-size meatballs (about 1½ inches), making sure to pack the vegetable mixture firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, in rows.
- Roast the meatballs 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.
- Meanwhile, spiralize the zucchinis with Blade D and trim the noodles. Set aside.
- Ten minutes before the meatballs are done roasting, place a large skillet over medium heat and once heated, add in half of the zucchini noodles. Cook for 3 minutes or until cooked to your preferences. Set aside in a large mixing bowl and then cook the remaining zucchini noodles.
- Meanwhile, place a medium pot over medium-high heat and add in the tomato sauce. Cook to heat up, about 5 minutes. Place at a simmer until ready to use.
- Once zucchini noodles, sauce and meatballs are cooked, prepare your bowls. Divide the zucchini into four bowls, top with equal amounts of sauce and then top with 3 meatballs each. Top with parmesan cheese.