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Budget Recipe 3: Umami “Plant Balls” With Tomato Spaghetti

Plant Balls with Spaghetti

These plant balls are packed full of umami flavours thanks to the mushrooms and lentils! If you are serving anyone with textural problems, you can blend the plant balls mixture in a blender or cut the ingredients finely. I like to leave vegetables a bit chunky, so that my kids are used to the taste and texture of different vegetables, but do what works for you and your family.


I would keep the plant balls separate to the sauce and spaghetti and feel free to substitute to a different shaped pasta, gluten free or higher protein such as a pea or lentil pasta.


You can make the plant balls in advance and freeze them. This recipe makes 18 plant balls. If you don’t have enough tomato passata or the sauce thickens, you can always add vegetable stock to the amount of passata you have and thicken it on the stove.


You could add the creamy sauce from the enchilada recipe after warming it up as a substitute to cheese or grate some cheese or make some vegan parmesan if you have the ingredients available to you.



For the Plant Balls:

1 cup red lentils

1 onion finely chopped.

2 cloves garlic, minced.

250 grams chestnut mushrooms finely chopped.

2 teaspoons oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup vegetable stock

1/2 cup tomato passata

1 red pepper finely chopped.

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons smoked paprika.

For the Tomato Sauce:

2 cups tomato passata

1 onion finely chopped.

2 cloves garlic, minced.

2 teaspoons oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon sugar

Brown spaghetti or pasta of choice – cook quantity according to amount needed (I used 340 grams of wholewheat spaghetti from Aldi to feed 4 people)


  1. Preheat your oven to 190°C/350F.

  2. Boil the red lentils according to packet instructions until fully cooked and drain in a colander and set aside.

  3. In a pan, sauté the onions, mushrooms, and garlic until softened and the mushrooms release their moisture (you may need to add small splashes of water to prevent the mixture from sticking.)

  4. Stir in the cooked red lentils, oregano, diced red pepper, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes.

  5. Pour in the vegetable stock, tomato passata, sugar, smoked paprika and garlic powder. Simmer until the mixture thickens and “dries out”.

  6. You can blend this mixture at this stage or leave it as it is. Squeeze the moisture out of the mixture and set the “liquid” aside to be used in the tomato sauce.

  7. Shape the mixture into plant balls (approx. 18) and place them on a baking paper (parchment) lined baking tray. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, turning halfway or until golden brown. The balls may collapse in the oven, but you can reshape them into balls with your hands. If you feel your mixture is too wet, you can add breadcrumbs or a small amount of toasted oats. (However I did not need to).

  8. While the plant balls are baking, prepare the tomato sauce. Sauté onions and garlic in a nonstick pan until softened (add a small amount of water or vegetable stock to stop the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan).

  9. Add tomato passata, reserved liquid from the plant balls mixture, oregano, salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the sauce thickens. I added some water to the passata packet and shook it gently and added to the pan to ensure I used up all the tomato in the packet.

  10. Cook the brown spaghetti according to the package instructions and drain and set aside.

  11. Serve the plant balls on a bed of brown spaghetti and top with tomato sauce!


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