Marina-Smothered Lentil Bites with Mozzarella | Naturally Ella

My obsession for these lentil bites knows no end. We keep an extra large batch of the bites in the freezer so that we can always have an easy meal, ready to go. This dish relies on my favorite pantry tomato sauce and a bit of cheese. These bites can be eaten by themselves, on top of grains, or smothering pasta. I’ve also been known to make meatball sandwiches with this recipe- perfect for dinner!

Marina-Smothered Lentil Bites with Mozzarella | Naturally Ella

Marinara-Smothered Lentil Bites with Mozzarella

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 75 minutes
  • Total Time: 90 minutes
  • Yield: 2 servings
  • Category: Main Course


A beautiful and filling vegetarian dish featuring homemade lentil-bites smothered with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. 


Lentil Bites

  • 1/2 cup brown or green lentils
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus more for brushing)
  • 1/3 cup diced red onion
  • 1 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup crushed pecans
  • 1/4 cup crushed walnuts
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat panko
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large egg


  • 2 15 ounce cans stewed or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh basil (packed)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


  • 2 ounces shredded mozzarella
  • Basil (for topping)
  • Parm (for topping)


  1. Combine lentils and water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until lentils are tender, 23 to 25 minutes. If lentils are not tender and water has been absorbed, add more water and continue to cook. Drain off any excess water.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat and add the red onion. Cook until onion is translucent and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and carrots, cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. In a food processor, combine the cooked lentils, onion mixture, nuts, panko, herbs, salt, and pepper. Pulse a few times to start combining the mixture. Crack the egg in and pulse a few more times until the mixture is combined but the lentils are still holding shape. Set aside and let rest while the oven preheats to 425˚ F.
  4. Take the lentil mixture and roll into 12 balls, roughly the size of a golf ball. Place on a baking tray covered with parchment paper and brush with olive oil. Bake meatballs until are set and starting to brown, 20 to 35 minutes.
  5. While the meatballs are cooking, make the sauce. In a blender, combine ingredients for sauce and puree until smooth. Pour the tomato sauce over the meatballs and top with shredded mozzarella.
  6. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, just until the cheese has melted and the sauce is warm.


Tips & Tricks: Make the meatballs ahead of time and freeze before baking. The cook time will increase but it still makes the meal a bit faster!

If you’re only eating these bites with the sauce, it’s a good amount for two people. However, you could also serve these bites over pasta/grains and easily serve 3 to 4 people.

Stock up: get the pantry ingredients you will need: lentils, nuts, stewed tomatoes

Nutrition: see the information.


  • Calories: 568
  • Sugar: 12.7
  • Sodium: 1668
  • Fat: 28.2
  • Carbohydrates: 58
  • Fiber: 13.5
  • Protein: 26.9
  • Cholesterol: 115.4

Lentil Bites


I’m constantly playing around with what I can do with these lentil bites. I’ve upped the vegetables, made them vegan, and used them in about every recipe possible. They are great served whole, sliced in half on a sandwich, or crumbled on a salad.

Broccoli Bites: I love adding vegetables to the lentil bites. I’ve found produce, like broccoli, to work really well. This recipe can help get you started.

Vegan: While I am a cheese fiend, the mozzarella can be left off and you could make the lentil bites with a flax-egg.

Pasta: Skip the second baking and top a big bowl of pasta with these lentil bites, marinara, and a fresh sprinkle of vegetarian-friendly parmesan.