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Vegetarian meatballs with pesto cream sauce recipe

You will never miss the meat after tasting these vegetarian meatballs. Hearty and filling, these will have even the most serious meat-eaters wanting more.

Vegetarian meatballs with pesto cream sauce recipe

These veggie balls prove to even the biggest meat-lovers that veggies can be delicious! We serve up a lot of meatless dishes in our home, since my husband is a strict vegetarian. It gets very boring eating the same things over and over, so I wanted to try something new. I was given a cookbook that had a great-looking vegetarian meatball recipe, and I was dying to give it a shot. I used the main recipe as a base but changed things to make it my own. We were at a loss for words and could not believe the flavor of these things. Amazing! They are a staple in our home now, and we use them in spaghetti and also to make vegetarian meatball subs. They are hearty, filling and so bursting with flavor you will never want meat in meatballs again.

Vegetarian meatballs with pesto cream sauce recipe

Inspired by The Meatball Shop

Yields 30-32 veggie balls


  • 2 cups lentils
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 extra tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram or italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounce can organic tomato paste
  • 8 ounces organic button mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup very finely chopped walnuts


  1. Add the lentils to a medium stockpot and cover completely with water. Turn the heat to high. Once they come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Once done cooking, drain the lentils and then set aside and allow to cool.
  2. Add one-quarter cup of the extra-virgin olive oil to a large frying pan and saute the onions, carrots, mushrooms, celery, garlic, thyme, marjoram (or italian seasoning) and salt over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Add the cooked vegetable mixture to a food processor. Do not puree the vegetables;  just pulse a few times to chop the vegetables in smaller pieces. If you don’t mind the chunky vegetables simply skip this step.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked veggie mixture and the tomato paste mixing well. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. When cool, add the lentils to the vegetable mixture along with the eggs, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley and walnuts. Mix very, very well.
  6. Place in the freezer for 25 minutes. (This allows the mixture to stiffen up making it easier to form balls.)
  7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle the remaining two tablespoons olive oil onto a large cookie sheet or baking pan, making sure the surface is greased well. You may also line the pan with aluminum foil and spray generously with cooking spray. (I actually do this because it makes the cleaning up part a bit easier.)
  8. Remove the veggie mixture from the freezer and begin to roll the mixture into round golf ball-size meatballs. Make sure to pack the vegetable mixture as firmly as possible. (A small cookie scoop really helps keep them all uniform in size.)
  9. Place the balls on the prepared baking pan, allowing one-quarter inch of space between the balls .
  10. Bake for 30 minutes or until the balls are firm and cooked through. Allow them to cool for five minutes on the baking pan.
  11. Top with pesto cream sauce, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and finely chopped fresh parsley before serving.

Pesto cream sauce

Yields 1-1/2 cups


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 ounces pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pint light cream


  1. In a food processor, combine basil and garlic. Begin processing, and pour in olive oil in a thin stream. Process for about 40 seconds or until mixture begins to emulsify. Add pine nuts and Parmesan, and then blend for one minute.
  2. Heat cream in a saucepan over low heat until simmering. Pour one-half of the hot cream into the processor with basil pesto and pulse for 20 seconds to incorporate. Pour mixture back into cream and simmer for five minutes or until thickened.
  3. Spoon the warm sauce over top of the veggie balls right before serving.

More meatball ideas

Apple meatball kabobs
Barbecued meatballs
Drunken meatballs

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