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Vegetarian Lentil and Chestnut Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Vegetarian Lentil and Chestnut Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

“This recipe has a warm, comforting and familiar feel and it takes your taste buds to a place where you wonder why balls were ever made of meat. Puy lentils mixed with chestnut puree are an excellent base for a ball. Transforming this from mixture to balls is a super social occasion; it’s amazing how much fun rolling a handful of goodies with a kitchen full of friends can be. The binding agent is roughly ground/milled flax seeds/linseeds, you can buy these ready milled/ground, or, as I did, you can grind the seeds in a mortar or spice grinder. You don’t need or want it to be a powder and the mixture you end with is what is sometimes called a flax egg. The balls and sauce can be made and completely cooked 2 days ahead and re-heated. These are good served with pasta, freekeh, quinoa or bread. If you don’t have a pan that is big enough, bake the balls in an oven at 190c for 20 minutes.”

By Alex Mackay

  • Serves 4

  • 30 Minutes

  • 2 pans

  • Proficient

Suitable for vegans

Dried Puy Lentils


  • 1 large onion, peeled & finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes with their juice
  • 400ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed/linseed (they are the same thing)
  • 3 tbsp hot water
  • 1 x 250g pouch Merchant Gourmet Simply Cooked Puy lentils
  • 200g Merchant Gourmet Chestnut Puree
  • 120g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 4 tbsp sliced parsley
  • Salt, sugar, freshly ground black pepper and smoked paprika (These are also lovely with ground fennel seed or curry powder in place of the smoked paprika)


1. Start with the tomato sauce. Sweat the onion and garlic in the olive oil for 6-7 minutes until it is soft. Add the tinned tomato and stock. Bring to the boil. Take the pan off the heat. Season lightly with salt, sugar, black pepper and smoked paprika.

2. Put the ground flax seed into a little bowl. Add 3 tbsp of hot water, leave to sit until to you need it, the mixture will become jelly like/gloopy.

3. In a large bowl, mash up the Puy lentils, not to puree them, just enough so you can see their insides. Add the chestnut puree, breadcrumbs, sliced parsley and the flaxseed mixture. If the mixture is a little wet, add more breadcrumbs. Season to taste, I like these to be quite smoky/spicy with smoked paprika. Separate the mixture into 28 even sized pieces. Roll them into balls between your palms.

4. Add the lentil and chestnut balls to the sauce in a single layer. Brush the balls with the sauce. Cover the pan but leave the lid slightly ajar. Simmer very gently for 20 minutes, removing the lid after 10 and brushing the balls 3 times. Add more stock if the sauce starts to dry out. Serve straight from the pan.

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