Veggie “Meatballs” from the Meatball Shop in NYC

I remember watching a segment on the Food Network quite a few years ago which featured a small establishment in the West Village area of New York City called The Meatball Shop. Their concept was simple and very successful. Essentially, they offered 5 varieties of meatballs, including classic, chicken, pork, veggie, and a daily special. These could be served up naked, as a hero sandwich on a fresh baguette, smashed on a brioche bun, or over a green salad. To literally “top” things off, there were homemade sauces to choose from, including classic tomato, spicy meat, Parmesan cream, mushroom gravy, and pesto.

In 2012, I was finally able to visit with my family and sample the many delicacies! In those days prior to me being vegetarian, we sampled every variety of meatball with a combination of several flavorful sauces. Even then, I appreciated that they offered a vegetarian option.

At that time, I had no idea that in just a couple of years I would begin to focus on a plant-based lifestyle and no longer eat meat. When I wanted to prepare meatballs for a dinner party one night, I remembered how much I enjoyed the veggie “meatballs” at The Meatball Shop. Fortunately, during the night of our visit, they were handing out index cards with the recipe and we happened to grab one on our way out. While the original recipe is vegetarian, I modified it to make it vegan by substituting vegan Parmesan and egg.

Keep in mind that most plant-based “meatballs” don’t really taste like meat or have a meat-like consistency. While you can purchase a variety of plant-based meatballs from most grocery stores that better meet these criteria, most tend to be highly processed. In the spirit of sticking to whole, plant-based foods, most homemade veggie “meatballs” should be appreciated for exactly what they are. I enjoy the texture of the lentils and chopped walnuts and the flavor of the traditional mirepoix (the trinity of onions, carrots, and celery), herbs and spices.


  • 2 cups brown lentils
  • Olive oil for sauteeing
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 8 oz mushrooms chopped
  • 3 large eggs (to make vegan, can substitute “flax eggs”. For 3 “eggs” mix 3 tablespoons ground flax with 9 tablespoons water and let sit for 10 minutes.)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan (for vegan Parmesan combine 3/4 cup raw cashews, 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, and 3/4 tsp salt in a small food processor and mix until finely ground)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs or panko
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts


  • Cook lentils per package instructions. I like to use low sodium vegetable broth in place of water for added flavor
  • Saute carrot, celery, onion, garlic, thyme, and salt over medium heat until tender
  • Add tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes
  • Add mushrooms and cook 15 minutes
  • Transfer to a bowl and when cool add cooked lentils
  • Add eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley, and walnuts (I used vegan “eggs” and “Parmesan”)
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes
  • Preheat oven to 400
  • Make golf ball sized balls and cook on a baking sheet on parchment paper for 30 minutes

Try these with this easy roasted tomato sauce