The Meatball Shop vegetarian meatballs

Homemade vegetarian meatballs with some toasted bread and suateed kale, mushrooms and leeks, covered with tomato sauce.

A year ago I was lucky enough while in Manhattan to try the restaurant The Meatball Shop. A hesitant but hungry Val was assured they serve vegetarian meatballs, but I had no idea what I was in for.

We were seated at a long table running the length of the restaurant. Handed a laminated menu and dry erase marker, we marked what we wanted and the server took the menus and our order. You pick the type of meatball you want; how you want it prepared; if it should be on a bun, salad, with sides, etc.; and any extras you want. Love the simplicity of the mix-and-match order. Great food, great friends, great atmosphere, it was a very memorable experience.

Since I couldn’t stop thinking about this meal, I did a search online to see if anyone had recreated a similar recipe. I didn’t find a similar recipe, I found the exact recipe and others from the restaurant kindly given to Martha Stewart Living Radio by the executive chef (Sauces, meats and vegetarian meatballs can be found here.)!

I set out to make the vegetarian meatballs at home. It is a little time-intensive, but totally worth the effort. The recipe makes 24 balls, but could be halved if that seems like a lot, and could be done in steps to spread the workload. I froze some of the balls and think they should be fine. I’ll take a few out, pop them in the toaster oven and the balls should be as good as new. Each serving is about three or four balls, maybe more if you are hungry.

Ready to eat! Smell great.

Vegetarian Meatballs

Makes 24 golf ball-sized balls


  • 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°.
  2. Combine the lentils with two quarts of water in a medium-sized stock pot and bring to a boil over high. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft but not falling apart, about 25 minutes. 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. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking, stirring frequently for fifteen more minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan and allow to cool.
  4. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl with the cooled vegetables and lentils and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
  5. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil into a 9 by 12 baking dish, making sure to evenly coat the entire surface (use your hand to help spread the oil).
  6. 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 the meatballs are lined up evenly in rows and are touching each of their four neighbors in a grid.
  7. Roast until firm and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Allow the meatballs to cool for five minutes before removing.

Have you had meals at restaurants you can’t stop thinking about?