Rigatoni with Lentil Mushroom Balls and Tomato Sauce: #122 of 1000 Sustainable Food Experiments

We had fun deciding what to call these. They’re not meatballs, so are they plant balls? Bean balls? Vegan balls? Neatballs? Despite all the laughs, they’re actually very delicious. Lentils, mushrooms, and a bunch of yummy sauces and spices make for a hearty and nourishing topping for your favorite pasta.

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($9 total for a big tray of lentil mushroom balls)

2 1/2 cups brown lentils – $1.69
2 1/2 cups water – free
1 tsp garlic powder – $0.28
1 tsp onion powder – $0.28
1 tsp oregano – $0.28
1 package enoki mushrooms from the farm box, chopped – $2.99
4 tbsp soy sauce – $0.40
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce – $0.30
1 can tomato paste – $0.89
1 tbsp nutritional yeast – $0.10
1/2 cup flour – $0.04
2 tbsp olive oil – $0.20
4 cloves garlic, minced – $0.15
1 15 oz can plum tomatoes, blended – $1.59
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Make the lentil mushroom balls: Cook the lentils and water in a large pot over high heat until it starts to boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and let it bubble gently for 15 minutes. Gather your spices and other ingredients in the meantime.

Next, add the chopped mushrooms, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, and nutritional yeast. Cook for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until all the water is absorbed. Then keep cooking and stir in the flour for a few more minutes until the mixture is fairly dry. Make sure it doesn’t burn.

Cool the lentil mixture to room temperature, then form them into meatball-sized balls with your hands. Put on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 250F (not 350F) for 45 minutes. They will be nice and crisp on the outside and a little bit golden-brown.

2. Make the sauce: In a medium pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the chopped garlic. Cook for a 3-5 minutes until the garlic starts to turn golden, then add the blended can of tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let this simmer for 15-20 minutes while you cook the pasta according to package directions.

3. Since everyone in our house has different tastes, I usually serve dinner in all its separate parts, and people can assemble their own plates however they like: pasta, sauce, and lentil mushroom balls. Serve hot, with optional cheese or fresh basil on top if you like. Buon appetito!

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 2 = 1-3 hours
  • Servings: 3 = lots of leftovers
  • Cost per person: 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness: 2 = decent meal (3 for me but our pickiest eater was a bit reluctant)
  • Environmental impact: 3 = minimal damage
  • Nutritional value: 3 = optimal nutrition
  • TOTAL: 16/18

If you tried it, please let me know how it came out for you. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

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