The Meatball Shop’s Vegetarian Meatballs

Joe with Michael from Meatball Shop

One of my favorite places in New York City, The Meatball Shop, is known for their fresh homemade meatballs, and one of their most popular items is the Vegetarian Meatballs! Co-owner and manager of The Meatball Shop in New York City, Michael Chernow, recognized the demand for healthy eating options when you’re out and made sure these were an option. You have to try this recipe or if you’re in NYC make sure you visit the restaurant!

Makes 24 golf ball-sized balls (You can easily halve this recipe)


  • 2 cups lentils
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 2 carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 celery stalks, minced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 sprigs thyme, picked (about 1 tbsp.)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 pound button mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped (about 1⁄2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine the lentils with two quarts of water in a medium-sized stock pot and bring to a boil over a high flame. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft but not falling apart (about 25 minutes– mine took a bit longer). Strain the lentils through a colander and allow to cool.
  3. Sautee the carrots, onions, celery, garlic, thyme, and salt with 1/4-cup of olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat, stirring frequently (about ten minutes). When the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown, add the tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly for three minutes.
  4. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking, stirring frequently for fifteen more minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan and allow to cool.

  5. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl with the cooled vegetables and lentils and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
  6. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil into a large baking dish (9×12), making sure to evenly coat the entire surface (use your hand to help spread the oil).
  7. Place the mixture in the refrigerator and allow to cool completely (about 25 minutes). Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-sized meatballs making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls into the oiled baking dish, such that all of the meatballs are lined up evenly in rows and are touching each of their four neighbors in a grid.
  8. Roast until firm and cooked through (about 30 minutes). Allow the meatballs to cool for five minutes before removing.

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