Friday, December 16, 2011

Meatless Meatball Marinara

Behold! Heaven on bread. Actually, the bread was heaven, too... Heaven on a plate.

It's even better than the Christmas decorations.
Yes, I know I said I was going to make this two days ago, but you know how life goes. So TODAY, I finally got to work.

Even in my meat-eating days, I've only had a meatball marina sub once. It was last April, right after I temporarily switched to a high-calorie diet. My friend Natalie and I decided to meet for lunch at Subway. I had always gotten the same sub (turkey), but I realized suddenly that this was an excellent opportunity to carelessly pile on the calories. Eagerly, I went on the Subway website and checked out the nutritional information. I scanned the chart for the highest calorie sandwiches. Bam! Meatball marinara. At the time, it was second only to the Big Philly Cheesesteak (although they have since added more in the 500-calorie range).

Oh man. It was pretty good. I am a little skeptical about Subway, due to the high sodium, controversial ingredients in their "fresh" bread, and that AWFUL smell of the restaurants that just CLINGS to your clothes for hours, but this sub was delicious. In a wrong, sick way.

I'm not sure how I got the idea to recreate this sandwich. I've been wanting to incorporate more lentils into my diet, so I was thinking of making meatballs again. And this idea came to me. I was planning on just using regular bread, or perhaps "Thin Buns" (I love those things), but then something better stumbled into my hands. My boss randomly makes Italian-herb baguettes from time to time, and on Tuesday, he had a loaf for me.

He said to me, "When you leave tonight, you can take one of those loaves."

I pursed my lips thoughtfully and replied, "Hmm....maybe!"

To which he replied with a smile, "Oh no, that wasn't a request. That was an order. You're taking one of those loaves." ;)

And then I realized this bread would be perfect for my sandwich. So after weeks of considering this recipe, I finally put it into execution.

The meatballs are adapted from my favorite veggie burger recipe, Jennifer Perillo's lentil burgers. I have raved about these before. They rock, and they're so versatile! When I made this batch, I didn't even shape any of them into patties; I put them all in balls. Some were used for this sandwich, some will be used for pasta, and others will be crumbled up for other things (pasta, chili, etc.). Love this stuff.

Lauren's Lentil Balls
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup oat bran (OR breadcrumbs)
  • 1 tsp. sage
  • 1 tsp. fennel
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
Cook the onions in a tablespoon or two of oil over medium high heat until translucent. Remove from heat. (I did this step while my lentils were simmering).

Transfer lentils to a large bowl. Mash or puree with a stick/immersion blender (or do this in your food processor). DON'T puree it all the way! I keep around half of them whole.

In a small bowl, mix water, oil, and baking powder. This is the replacement for the egg (which I never seem to have on hand these days; I guess you could say I've taken on a vegan-inclined diet when cooking at home). So alternatively, you could just use an egg. :) Add the mixture, OR a lightly beaten egg, to the lentils.

Add the onion and oat bran. Mix. Add sage, fennel, black pepper, and salt. Mix again.

Shape into your preferred shape. The possibilities are endless! In fact, I bet if you added more spices (cayenne!!), they would transform into some fantastic breakfast sausages. :)

Refrigerate them for an hour or two (or longer!) before frying in a little oil on all sides.

For the meatball marina sandwich:

After the meatballs were browned on all sides, I added the marina to the pan. As it turns out, this was a terrible idea. Hot pan + cold sauce = sizzle, splatter, and hiss. Duh! (Proof that I'm still a kitchen debutante.) Try heating up the marina separately before adding!

I cut off a 5-inch chunk of the baguette and sliced it in half. I toasted it slightly on our Pizzazz. :)

And then I assembled it all. :) And DANG. It tasted SO GOOD. I actually felt a sense of loss when I had finished it all. I will definitely be using the remains of my baguette to repeat this meal!


  1. Terrific blog! I'm your newest follower.

  2. I am setting off to make these this afternoon! I'll let you know how they turn out :)

  3. Awesome! That is the best thing I have heard in weeks! :D

  4. What kind of lentils did you use? I used yellow and they did not hold their shape.

    1. Brown, I think? I'm not entirely sure. The bag just says "lentils." They are a jade green/brownish color.

  5. After intending to find time to make these for weeks, I finally did it on Friday. Thanks for the inspiration!