Stuffed pasta shells
- 1 h 45 min
- Kcal 194
Is it because of the famous scene in Lady and the Tramp in which Tramp nudges the last meatball towards Lady with his muzzle, his eyes sparkling with love, or because of that Italo-American allure that reminds us of our compatriots' picaresque endeavors, who emigrated to the New World many years ago, in search of luck? Or is it perhaps because the 3 most famous chefs on TV dedicated a standoff to it, declaring it a gourmet dish from the laid-back hybrid it was? One thing's for sure, whenever spaghetti meatballs are mentioned, our mouth starts to water right away. What if we told you we've prepared a vegetarian version? If ever there was a plate that played with Italian culinary tradition while still earning pride of place in the firmament of great classics of international cuisine, then this is it! We took up the gauntlet, reveled in the absolute lack of specifications and true to the U.S.A. school of thought, prioritized practice over theory to come up with these wonderful spaghetti with veggie balls: a first course with tomato sauce, basil, timeless spaghetti and delicious lentil balls, which trick the eye and surprise the palate. Whether you are a strict vegetarian, a curious omnivore, or mere recyclers of leftovers, this recipe will win you over. You'll feel like setting the table with a white and red check cloth, growing a mustache and strumming a mandolin...
To prepare spaghetti with veggie balls, start by rinsing the lentils under cold running water 1 (there's no need to soak, although you may prefer to do so, for around 2 hours: this will shorten the cooking time) and cook for the length of time indicated on the packet, in unsalted water, with a square of kombu seaweed 2. Towards the end of the cooking time, when tender, add salt to taste and remove the seaweed 3.
Drain the lentils in a colander over a basin, to remove all access water 4. In the meantime, boil the whole potatoes for around 25-30 minutes (cooking time will depend on the size of potatoes used) 5. Leave them to cool just enough so that you can peel them; use a potato masher to mash them when still hot 6, and leave to one side.
Once the lentils are thoroughly drained and cooled, place them in the mixer 7, add the parsley and peeled garlic 8. Blend to obtain a fine mixture 9.
Place in a bowl, add the potatoes 10, the egg 11 and the grated Grana Padano cheese 12.
Add salt and pepper to taste 13 and stir thoroughly: you'll need to obtain a mellow and rather firm consistency 14 that will be easy to work with. Now roll it into balls: dampen your hands and form the balls, using around half an ounce of dough for each one. As you prepare them, place the balls on a tray lined with parchment paper 15.
In the meantime, prepare the tomato sauce. Briefly brown the garlic and oil in a deep pan 16, add the tomato puree 17 and cook for around 30 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon so that it does not stick to the bottom. Towards the end of the cooking time, remove the garlic 18,
flavor with the basil 19 and add salt and pepper to taste 20. Bring abundant salted water to the boil in a pan and add the pasta 21.
While the spaghetti cooks, heat a drizzle of oil in a capacious pan, when hot add the balls 22 and brown them for 2-3 minutes, shake the pan so that they become golden on all sides. Pour the tomato sauce over the balls 23 and leave to flavor for a minute. Now remove around 1/3 of the balls from the pan and leave them to one side for use when arranging onto dishes 24.
Drain the spaghetti (leave a little cooking water to one side) and pour them directly into the pan with the sauce 25, add a little cooking water from the pasta if necessary 26 and toss briefly to mix the flavors together. Arrange the spaghetti onto dishes, add a few fresh basil leaves and balls kept to one side 27. Enjoy your spaghetti with veggie balls piping hot!
You can store cooked or uncooked balls in the refrigerator, covered, for 1-2 days. You can also freeze them for around 1 month. The sauce can also be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2 days. Once all the ingredients are mixed together and sauteed with the spaghetti, they are best enjoyed right away.
If you prefer to leave out the potatoes, you can replace them with finely diced stale bread, but the mix will need to rest a little longer before you roll it into vegetarian balls!
If you follow a vegetarian diet which excludes not only meat and fish but also cheese obtained from animal origin, you can replace the ingredient with a vegan cheese.