CAN YOU believe we are nearing the end of January? It doesn’t seem like five minutes since we were rushing around shopping, frantically wrapping presents and carving turkeys .

January is a time for new beginnings and New Year’s resolutions. Most of us try to be a better version of ourselves ... even if we only manage to pull it off for January, or part of it at least. Many people are doing Dry January, a chance to detox from the Christmas boozing. Others are doing Veganuary, not eating animal products for the month.

Probably the most common New Year’s resolution though, is to eat healthier. After overindulging over Christmas many of us welcome a health kick. The only problem is that, now that we’re three quarters of the way through January, some of us will be finding it difficult, desperately craving our favourite dishes that must be diet breakers - surely? But what if you could cut calories, just by swapping out a few ingredients?

Italians like cooking with lentils because they are such a versatile ingredient. They belong to the legume family and are great source of protein, which makes them a favourite for vegetarians and vegans, with many using them – as well as other legumes such as beans, chickpeas, peas – as an alternative to meat.

Some superstitious Italians believe it is important to eat lentils on New Year’s Eve because it is said to bring you good luck and money. These superstitious types also give bags of lentils to those they care about, to bring them good fortune too.

As well as being a great meat alternative, and lucky, lentils are also popular because they are so cheap. In fact, they would often be referred to as ‘the meat of the poor’. The obvious great thing about lentils is that they are good for you. But I get it, you’re not craving lentils, you want a real Italian dish like classic spaghetti and meatballs.

But by adding lentils to your meatballs you can cut down on calories and fat without really noticing - especially when they are sitting on top of a plate of spaghetti, covered in a delicious tomato sauce. With the herby, garlicky flavour of these pork and lentil meatballs, your tastebuds will be satisfied. You might even trick yourself into thinking you’re having a day off from your diet.

So whether you’re someone who is bored of their diet, someone who has broken it, or someone who didn’t need to go on one in the first place, this healthy take on spaghetti and meatballs is perfect for warming up on a cold winter’s night.

Healthy spaghetti with meatballs

Serves 4


For the meatballs

200g green lentils (drained from a 400g tin)

250g lean minced pork

½ tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp finely chopped rosemary

1 garlic clove

For the pasta

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 shallots, finely chopped

500g cherry tomatoes

2 tsp tomato purée

2 tbsp chopped oregano

pinch of chilli flakes

280g spaghetti

Oil for cooking


1. Pre-heat your oven to 200 C/180 C fan/gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with foil and brush with 1 tsp of oil.

2. Throughly strain your lentils and add to a bowl. Squash the lentils with the back of a fork to break them down a little, but do not completely mash them. Add the pork, rosemary, mustard and chopped garlic. Season with pepper before stirring well with a fork to evenly distribute the lentils. Divide the mixture into four, before dividing each quarter into five pieces (giving you 20 in total) before rolling into ball shapes and placing down on the foil. Briefly roll them around on the foil to coat them in oil. Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes until your meatballs are cooked and lightly browned. Remove the meatballs from the oven (but leave the oven turned on) and set aside for later.

3. While your meatballs are cooking, make the sauce. Heat 2 tsp oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the final chopped shallots and the finely chopped garlic, and fry on a medium heat for around 3-4 minutes, until softened and lightly browned. Add a further 1 tsp oil before chopping your cherry tomatoes in half and laying them face down in the pan. Increase the heat and fry them for 3-4 mins, or until the tomatoes are starting to soften and release juice. Do not stir them, so that they keep their shape. Pour in 125-150ml water to allow the mixture to bubble, before gently mixing in the tomato purée. Lower the heat and allow to simmer for 2 minutes. Season with chilli flakes, oregano, pepper and a pinch of salt, and give it a stir.

4. Pour the sauce into a casserole dish, add the meatballs and spoon the sauce over them. Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes while you cook the spaghetti.

5. Boil a large saucepan of water. Add the spaghetti, stir and bring back to the boil. Cook following the instructions on the packet. Drain, season with pepper and serve with the meatballs and the sauce.