Vegetarian Lentil Meatballs with Tomatoes

Spaghetti with meatballs in the cartoon Lady and the Tramp, are without a doubt one of the most iconic food representations in a cartoon, perhaps second only to Ratatouille’s ratatouille.
You must certainly remember the scene: Lady and the Tramp having dinner at Tony’s Italian restaurant, sharing a plate of spaghetti meatballs and, thanks to the shared spaghetti, they exchange their first kiss (makes one wonder why young women always have unrealistic expectations about their boyfriends …).

I always thought it would be nice to prepare spaghetti like those in Lady and the Tramp, but I’ve never had the opportunity, since I’m vegetarian, and I do not eat meatballs.
Recently, however, my mother created some amazingly delicious vegetarian meatballs, which truly seem to be made with meat, and I could not resist: I prepared them with her, to steal the recipe, and I ate them with a generous plate of spaghetti, just like in the movie.

Polpette vegetariane di lenticchie al pomodoro

Vegetarian Lentil Meatballs with Tomatoes

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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course First Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2


  • 150 g of half-cooked lentils *
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of bread crumbs
  • 1 spoonful of chopped parsley
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of ready-made tomato sauce


  • First, let's repeat the rule of cooking (*) lentils: we need raw, dried lentils, not canned ones, and we will only partially cook them. Any kind of lentil will be fine, as long as it is raw.
  • Take 2 large cups of dried lentils, rinse in cold water, and put them in a pressure cooker with enough water to cover them.
  • Cook the lentils in a pressure cooker for 5 minutes after the pressure cooker whistles, no more no less; then drain the lentils and grind them in the meat grinder until you get a rough mixture, without any whole lentils.
  • At this point, mix the chopped lentils with the egg and the remaining ingredients exactly as you would for meatballs, until you get a mixture that does not stick to your hands. If you prefer firm and compact meatballs, keep the recipe unchanged; but if you like softer meatballs, replace the breadcrumbs with some stale bread soaked in water.
  • Prepare a simple tomato sauce in a saucepan (if you have some already prepared, that's fine too) and dilute it with a little hot water; in the meantime, form the meatballs, taking care to make them rather small because they will grow a lot during cooking.
  • When they are ready, transfer the meatballs to the simmering sauce, and cook until the sauce is very dry, adding water if instead you feel that it needs a few more minutes of cooking.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


If you want to recreate the American cartoon, Lady and the Tramp, by preparing vegetarian spaghetti and meatballs, cook the pasta while the meatballs cook, drain the spaghetti “al dente”, and serve with the sauce and meatballs just made.

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