This is my new favourite pasta dish. The polpettes are filling, nutritious and tasty. The watercress pesto, apart from being amazingly simple to make, is delicious and really lifts the dish. The polpettes can be made ahead and frozen, and you can make the pesto in the time it takes to cook the pasta, making this dish perfect for weekday dinners when time is short but you really deserve a treat.
250g kale, leaves only (discard woody stalks)
400g tin green lentils, drained and rinsed
1 large egg
125g fresh breadcrumbs
75g Parmesan, finely grated
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to grease
1 garlic clove
zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Preheat oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C/ gas mark 4
- Line a baking tray with baking parchment or greaseproof paper.
- In a large pan, gently cook the kale for 3 minutes in 75ml water. Set aside to cool.
- Put the lentils, egg, breadcrumbs and Parmesan in a food processor. Whiz to form a thick paste. Squeeze the water out of the kale and add to the food processor with some salt and pepper, then whiz to combine.
- With lightly greased hands, roll the kale mixture into 20 balls. Set them on the prepared tray and brush with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, to make the pesto, put the garlic, lemon zest and juice, the remaining oil, hazelnuts and 75g of the watercress, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 100ml water into the food processor and whiz together to form a chunky paste.
- Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted water according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and reserve 75ml of the cooking liquid.
- Return the pasta to the empty pan and toss through the pesto, polpettes and the reserved cooking liquid. Check the seasoning. Divide among the plates and garnish with the remaining watercress and dollops of pesto.