My lentil balls and whole wheat penne recipe is a go-to dish for our weekly plant-based meal prep. I love it because it's inexpensive, delicious and full of healthy energy via legumes, whole grains and veggies. It also makes A LOT of servings too, about 6 - 8.
Feel free to use a jarred sauce to make this even quicker (just check ingredients, keep it simple!). Throw in some frozen peas to add a few more grams of plant based protein.
When I first went plant-based 11 years ago I didn't really understand the importance of combining a variety of whole foods in your daily diet for sustained energy, health and stamina.
I just ate A LOT of plain pasta on pasta on pasta. 🙂
I've learned a thing or two since then but yes, I still eat (and love!) pasta a couple times a week, just with a few easy adjustments.
- I traded in processed white pasta for organic, non-GMO whole wheat pasta (6g fiber + 7.5g protein per serving!).
- I incorporate more veggies and additional protein sources to make things more substantial and balanced. Take this meal prep recipe as an example -- three little lentil balls provide an additional 10g of protein to the dish!
- I PLAY with spices and flavors. Stock up your spice rack and and start playing. Oh and onion powder and garlic powder go in just about everyyyything.
Pasta is a great inexpensive palette for healthy meal magic.
Especially if you're active, you NEED carbs. Plant based diets inherently have a higher ratio of carbs and that's okay. Just remember to level up and create BALANCE with servings of seasoned legumes, tofu, tempeh, seeds or nuts, and lots of roasted, steamed or sauteed vegetables. So many possibilities here.
Remember the goal to is to eat a variety of WHOLE FOODS. Minimize the processed junk as much as possible and you'll be on the right track!
If you're looking for a plant-based protein powder to supplement your diet or add to smoothies, check out my homemade vegan protein powder recipe!
How do I make this deliciousness happen?!
Quick overview! More in the recipe card below.
Cook the lentils. The ratio to remember is 2:1 water to lentils. Amp up the flavor with vegetable broth instead of boring water.
Prepare and bake the lentil balls, 400 degrees for 12 minutes, flip and bake for another 10 minutes. Easy peasy. I always double the recipe so that I have extra for other meals. They freeze really well!
While the lentil balls are baking, make the tomato sauce. I've used everything from all day family recipe style sauce to the glorious shortcut of a Classico organic jarred sauce. You do you! I shared a super quick and flavorful 20 minute sauce recipe for you here. Right in the middle! 🙂
While the sauce is cooking, prepare your pasta. That's easy.
With a few minutes left to the pasta, steam some veggies, in this case I chose spinach, but feel free to use sauteed mushrooms, zucchini, roasted butternut squash, etc. -- I just love incorporating some vegetable element with the whole grains and protein of this dish.
Throw it all together! If you're serving it right away, let the lentil balls warm a bit in the red sauce to soak up even more flavor. If you're packaging this for meal prep for the week, keep them separate so they don't get mushy.
I hope you enjoy it! Please reach out to me with any questions.Print
This high-protein, plant-based pasta dish features herbed tomato sauce, spinach + veggie packed lentil balls making it meal prep favorite of mine. I typically double the lentil ball recipe for an easy meal another week. Lentil ball sub sandwiches maybe, or a salad topper?! Yum.
- 2 tbs. ground flax seeds + ¼ cup water
- ¾ cup green lentils (dry)
- 1 ½ cups water + 2 tsp. Better than Bouillon Veggie (or 1 ½ cups vegetable broth)
- 1 tbs. olive oil
- ½ cup minced onion
- ⅓ cup oats (quick oats are best or you can pulse regular oats in a food processor to grind them up)
- ⅔ cup carrots, grated
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 2 tbs. tomato paste
- 2 tbs. nutritional yeast
- SPICES: 4 tbs. fresh basil, chopped (or 2 tsp. dried), 1 tsp. Italian seasoning, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. each garlic powder, pepper and onion powder.
HERBED TOMATO SAUCE
- ½ cup onion, diced
- 1 tbs. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbs. real maple syrup
- 2 tbs. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp. each oregano, basil, onion powder, garlic powder, salt + pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 16 oz. box of whole wheat pasta (100% whole wheat = 6g fiber, 7.5g protein per serving)
- 2 - 3 cups fresh spinach + 2 tbs. water
- nutritional yeast and hemp seeds to sprinkle before serving (optional)
Prepare Lentil Balls:
- Rinse and drain the lentils. Put the lentils and broth together in a medium saucepan and cover. Heat to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to medium-low, simmer and cook for 20 minutes until tender and all water is absorbed.
- While lentils are cooking...
- Prepare "flax eggs" -- in a small bowl, combine ground flax seed + ¼ c water, set aside.
- Caramelize onions -- Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium, add onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lower heat, cover and cook until golden and caramelized, another 10 - 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooked lentils, caramelized onion, oats, carrots, garlic, tomato paste, flax eggs, and spices. Mix really well until combined.
- Scoop portions of the mixture into balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Each batch should make around 16-20. I find it helpful to use a cookie scoop. I also put a little olive oil on my hands to keep it from sticking too much when shaping.
- Bake for 12 minutes, remove the pan, flip, and bake for another 10 minutes until golden.
Prepare the Sauce, Pasta & Spinach
- While the lentil balls are baking... prepare the sauce!
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and follow the same procedure to caramelize -- cook for 5 minutes, lower heat, cover and cook for another 10 minutes until golden.
- Add the garlic, cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients and spices to the skillet, stir to combine. Increase heat to medium high to bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Don't forget to remove the bay leaf before serving!
- While the sauce is cooking, cook your pasta according to the instructions on the box. I chose penne, but go with your favorite pasta shape!
- (OPTIONAL STEP) Once the sauce is cooked, carefully add the baked lentil balls to the sauce. Spoon some sauce on top to coat. Cover the skillet for a few minutes to heat the balls through on low then this is ready to rock! NOTE: If you're not serving this right away, skip this step like I did in the photos for meal prep and keep the balls separate so they don't get soggy.
- Last but not least, prepare the spinach. Feel free to sub other roasted or sauteed veggies here.
- Add spinach and 2 tbs. water to a small skillet over medium heat. Cover and wilt, stirring occasionally, 2-3 minutes tops. You want to keep that vibrant green color!
- Plate your pasta, add the sauce, top with 3 lentil balls and a bit of spinach. Sprinkle some nooch and hemp seeds if desired.
Always always always taste throughout the cooking process and add a bit more salt and pepper when needed. Add some more spices, mix it up, adjust to your taste, this recipe isn't meant to be static, play with it!
The lentil balls are fairly soft but should hold together nicely once baked.
Feel free to add your favorite sauteed or roasted veggies to this dish for even more dynamic flavors and variations. I've added sauteed sliced mushrooms, zucchini, and peppers, etc. -- there's no going wrong!
Keywords: meal prep, vegan, plant-based, savory, pasta