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Cathy Katin-Grazzini

Cathy's Kitchen Prescription LLC


Polpette di Lenticchie al Sugo

(Lentil “Meatballs” in Hearty Tomato Sauce)


For centuries home cooks throughout Europe, Central Asia, India, and the Middle East have fashioned tasty balls of meat, potatoes, legumes, and vegetables. Some are pan-fried, some stewed, some float in soups. This is a plant-based take on Italian polpette, using lentils instead of meat. They are tender “meatballs” with a slightly chewy bite, and are cooked in a simple, flavorful red sauce that is seasoned with aromatics. Enjoy these saucy polpette as appetizers, as an entrée, or to sauce whole grain pastas.


This low-fat dish is packed with protein, folate, iron, fiber, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium, and B vitamins, with a low glycemic load.


Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes

Makes a dozen polpette, serving 4 as an appetizer or 2 as an entrée


1 cup cooked lentils from 1/2 cup dry green lentils

2 bay leaves

4 cloves garlic, peeled, 2 whole, 2 minced

½ cup 100% whole grain artisanal bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/8” cubes

1/2 cup cooked brown rice, from ¼ cup raw rice

½ medium yellow onion, cut in small pieces and then puréed

1 small handful fresh parsley, leaves and stems, minced together with the garlic cloves

Pinch baking soda

6 grinds black pepper

2 tablespoons aka (red) miso paste or to taste

2 teaspoons nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon ground dried porcini mushrooms

About ¾ cup white whole wheat flour


1 red onion, cut in 1” pieces

1 medium carrot, cut in 1” pieces

1 stalk of celery, cut in 1” pieces

Dry vermouth or no-sodium vegetable broth

1 24-ounce carton strained tomatoes or passata

1 fistful of parsley, minced

3 tablespoon aka miso or to taste

Several grinds of black pepper

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast


Rinse the lentils and transfer to a medium-sized pot. Fill with water, covering the lentils by 2 inches. Toss in the whole garlic clove and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, lower to simmer gently until tender but intact, 20-25 minutes.  Test at 15 minutes to avoid overcooking the lentils.  Drain well, discard the bay leaf, retain the garlic clove, and allow to cool.


Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. Rinse the rice and transfer to the pot together with 1 clove of garlic and a bay leaf. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well, discard the bay leaf, and cool. Transfer ½ cup of cooked rice to a large board. Use a mezzaluna or chef knife to chop the grains roughly in half. Transfer the chopped rice with the garlic clove to a small bowl.


To make the porcini powder, simply grind the dried porcini slices in a coffee or spice grinder for a few seconds until you’ve created a uniform powder. Measure out a teaspoon, and store any excess in a small glass jar.


Use a coffee or spice grinder or a box grater to purée the onion. Scrape the onion into a mixing bowl. Add the cubed bread and mix well to moisten the cubes and infuse them with the onion.


Using a mezzaluna or chef knife, mince together the parsley and remaining two cloves of garlic. Stir the mix into the mixing bowl with the bread cubes and puréed onion. Add the cooked lentils and chopped rice with their boiled garlic cloves, a pinch of baking soda, the nutritional yeast, and porcini powder. Season to taste with black pepper and aka miso. Taste the mix and correct the seasonings as you like.


Use your hand to knead the polpette mix well. Add enough whole wheat white flour as needed to create a coherent, moderately stiff mix, about ¾ cup. If the mix is too wet, the polpette will be mushy. Too dry, and they will be dry and hard.  Squeeze and knead for 5 minutes to ensure the ingredients are well mixed and hold together when you form a meatball. Cover and rest the polpette mix as you make the sugo (sauce).


Combine the red onion, carrot, and celery in a food processor bowl, fitted with S-shaped blade. Pulse until all the aromatics are uniformly small.  Heat a medium pot on medium for 2 minutes. Add the minced aromatics, lower heat, and gently sweat the vegetables until they release their water and soften, about 5 minutes.


If they begin to brown or adhere, lower heat and deglaze with a tablespoon or two of dry vermouth or no-sodium vegetable broth.


Add the strained tomatoes or passata, cover, and cook on a low simmer for 10 minutes. Season with nutritional yeast, black pepper, and aka miso to taste.  As the sauce thickens, thin it with ¼ cup of water. Stir in a few tablespoons of chopped parsley.  Cook for at least 10 minutes. If you can afford more time, the sugo will only improve in taste and texture, however.


Break off pieces of the polpette mix and roll them with you hands into 1” balls. Drop each into the pot, spooning sauce over it to cover. When all the polpette are in the saucepot, cover and cook on a low simmer until the polpette have swelled slightly and are cooked thoroughly, about 20 minutes. Taste for doneness and to correct seasonings as you like.


Serve hot as an appetizer, on a plate with mashed potatoes or over whole grain pasta. Garnish with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast and the remaining minced parsley.


Polpette di Lenticchie al Sugo

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