Polpette Tenebrarum. Vegan & Gluten free



For us simplicity in cooking is essential; a sobriety that includes both the choice of ingredients used in a recipe and its execution. But beware: simplicity is not banality and should not be confused with simplification, that is to say, an incorrect impoverishment of content.


As you can deduct from the title, the recipe we are proposing is inspired by Inferno, the great 1980 film by Dario Argento, which we reviewed in this article.


As usual, we like to associate a film with a dish, and this time the influence of certain scenes resulted in the creation of the Polpette Tenebrarum (Tenebrarum Meatballs), that is, lentil-based meatballs, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, accompanied by a tasty tomato and basil sauce.

In Inferno there are many scenes in which ‘meat appears: just think of the corpses under water, the cats’ meal, the deaths of the antique dealer Kazanian and the butler John; since meatballs are traditionally meat-based, the thematic assonance seemed obvious to us (although we propose a vegetable version); furthermore, the sauce translates the bloody element of the film, as well as being always in theme with the classic ‘meatballs with sauce’.


The recipe is gluten free, vegan and, as always, meets some very precise criteria, which are very important to us:
– the lightness, the digestibility of the dish, given by healthy ingredients;
– the rediscovery of the genuine flavour of each food, enhanced, not distorted or even hidden by an excessive amount of spices.

We are aware that ‘taking away’ in cooking, in a good sense of course and without dangerous excesses, is not very fashionable; however, it is what we believe in and what makes us happy.


As we always remind, this is a personal interpretation, which we may or may not agree with, but we believe it is important to respect a person’s creative vision, in the kitchen as in other areas.




Find below the instructions for a generous portion of sauce and about fifteen medium-sized meatballs.




Preparation time

15 minutes


Cooking method and time

On the stove burner, over low heat for 1 h 30 minutes.



In the refrigerator, for 1 day, in a glass container.

In the freezer, for up to 3 months in containers suitable to store foodstuff.



– 1 tin (400 g) of tomato pulp;

– 1 small piece of white onion;

– 1 pinch of ground chilli;

– 1-2 teaspoons of white sugar;

– a few leaves of fresh basil;

– extra virgin olive oil to taste;

– water to taste.


POLPETTE TENEBRARUM (Tenebrarum Meatballs)


Preparation time

45 minutes


Cooking method and time

Convection oven at 180°C (356°F) for 20 minutes (10 minutes each side).


Storage (cooked only)

In the freezer, for up to 1 month in a container suitable to store foodstuff.

Leave to defrost for about 20 minutes at room temperature, and then heat in the oven at 150°C (302°F) for about 10-15 minutes, in order to obtain a satisfying result, as if they had just been made.



– 240 g (drained product) of pre-cooked canned lentils (organic);

– 1 piece of leek (about 3 mm);

– 1 medium-sized yellow potato (about 70 g when cooked);

– 1 pinch iodized salt;

– 1 pinch black pepper;

– breadcrumbs (gluten-free) as required;

– extra virgin olive oil to taste.


Caution: for people with coeliac disease, all ingredients with risk of contamination must be gluten-free certified.


Useful information before cooking

  • Lentils belong to the legume category and are rich in complex carbohydrates, protein, fibre and minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc and copper. They contain numerous vitamins such as retinol (A), ascorbic acid (C), thiamine (B1) and niacin (PP).


  • Animal proteins include all the essential amino acids the body needs; this is not the case for most plant proteins. In order to obtain a complete vegetable protein, it is therefore essential to combine cereals (millet, rice, etc.) and legumes (broad beans, lentils, peas, beans, etc.) at mealtimes: this is because cereals lack the amino acid lysine and legumes, the amino acid methionine.
    Be careful, therefore, as this food combination is really essential for a healthy plant-based diet.


  • Meatballs are traditionally a protein main course. In the vegetable version, we have tried, as far as possible, not to distort this concept and to introduce a modest quantity of carbohydrates into the recipe (the potato is useful as a binder, while the breadcrumbs provide a crunchy crust), also in view of the fact that lentils, although high in protein, are already rich in carbohydrates.
    When you eat them, do not combine them with other carbohydrates (bread, crackers, breadsticks, etc.), but do combine them, like we have done, with a homemade tomato and basil sauce, together with a generous portion of vegetables; these tricks will balance the composition of the meal.



Digitalis Purpurea™ points out that no nutritional information in this article can replace medical advice, as each individual has unique physiological characteristics which, in the event of deficiencies or illnesses, must be necessarily checked by a general practitioner or specialist.
Therefore, the information published in this article is for information purposes only and should not be regarded as medical advice, a medical prescription or any other kind of prescription.



The sauce should be prepared in advance of the meatballs, because of the difference in cooking time.



Cut a small piece of white onion into small cubes; alternatively, frozen diced onion is also very good; place it in a large non-stick saucepan, together with a drop of cold water and a couple of drops of oil; the water will help to keep the oil from burning while the onion fries over a low heat. Listen with both ears and nose and when the onion is lightly browned, add the tomato pulp; stir well and raise the heat slightly to bring everything to the boil.

Now, add a pinch of chilli pepper, lower the flame to a minimum and cover with a lid: from time to time add a little (boiled) water to prevent the sauce from drying out too much; halfway through cooking, taste: it may be necessary to correct the acidity of the tomato with 1-2 teaspoons of sugar; in this case we use white sugar only because it has a ‘neutral’ taste compared to maple syrup, cane sugar and others.

The sauce should simmer for about 1 hour and 15 minutes; when there are about 15 minutes left before the end of cooking, add a few leaves of fresh basil, previously soaked in baking soda and then rinsed under running water.

When the sauce is cooked, that is, when it has reduced sufficiently, let it cool down and then add a trickle of raw oil. Stir one last time, and the sauce is ready!





Wash a medium-sized yellow potato under cold running water; peel and rinse again. To speed up the cooking process, cut the potato into small cubes (a little smaller than an ice cube), place them in a saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. Count 10-15 minutes from the moment the potato starts to boil and add a little salt to the water; once the time has elapsed, plunge the tines of a fork into a piece of potato: if they go in without difficulty it means that the cooking is finished; if you prefer, you can also taste a piece.
Drain and set aside, but keep the potato warm by covering it, for example, with a plate or something similar.



Rinse the lentils under cold running water and set aside for a moment.
Take the leek, slice a small piece (about 3 millimetres) and put it in a non-stick pan, together with a drop of cold water and a tickle of oil; just as for the sauce, the water will help to prevent the oil from burning. Fry the leek over a low heat for a short time and when it is ready (after about 1 minute), add the lentils; mix everything together well and turn the heat up to medium to brown them as well as possible; it will take about 10 minutes for them to get the right consistency, that is, neither too soft nor too roasted, but dry.





Now, allow the lentils to cool slightly and, separately, mash the potato with a fork roughly. Take a container, add the lentils and potato (about 70 g when cooked) while still quite hot and blend them with the help of an immersion blender; the mixture should have a full-bodied appearance, a bit granular and rough, in the sense that it should not be a smooth cream and that some pieces of lentil should remain intact. Don’t worry if the mixture is a bit sticky: it’s normal and better that way; don’t add breadcrumbs.
The appearance, as you can see in the picture, is certainly not the most inviting, but trust us: the taste is irresistible! Taste and adjust the salt and pepper, without exaggerating so as not to ruin the delicacy of the mixture.
Little tip: at this point you won’t have time to clean the blades of the mixer. Soak them immediately and in that way, it will be easier to wash them later.





Spread a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray; take a little of the mixture and quickly form medium-sized balls.




When they are all ready, preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F), in fan mode.
Now, take a round container with high sides, fill it with breadcrumbs and coat them one at a time; do so quickly so that the surface of the meatballs does not get too much cold. It is essential to be quick at this stage because it is the residual heat of the mixture that will make the breadcrumbs stick together; you will notice that the breadcrumbs are very light, almost like a “veil”, and if a few pieces come off, all is well. We use a quality breadcrumb, which alternates between a fine powder and a few slightly thicker pieces; we like to bounce the balls around in the bowl so that the crumbs stick better.
As you prepare the meatballs, place them on the baking tray, spacing them out well.





Bake the tray in a convection oven preheated to 180°C (356°F) for 10 minutes; after this time, remove the tray, turn the meatballs on the other side and bake them for 10 minutes (maximum 20 minutes in all). In the meantime, heat up some sauce in a small pan.



When the meatballs are cooked, take them out of the oven and leave them to cool for a few minutes; there may be cracks, but don’t worry. Now, take two small bowls: pour the hot sauce into one and the meatballs into the other. We do not recommend putting them together because the heat of the sauce will soften the surface of the meatballs, which should be crispy on the palate and soft inside. And, to be honest, scooping up a bit of sauce with the meatball between your fingers is incomparable…






The meatballs, delicate and tasty at the same time, literally melt in your mouth and the accompanying sauce only enhances the flavour… it’s hard to describe the ecstasy you feel when you taste them.

Don’t leave them unattended and secure your portion before they disappear forever.

We are really curious to know which dish you would prepare to pay homage to this beautiful horror film by Dario Argento. So, make yourselves heard in the comments!

If you liked our recipe and learned something new, please leave a comment, subscribe to our newsletter, and follow us on Spreaker, Spotify, Instagram and Pinterest. We’d love to hear from you and, in any case, thank you for spending time with us.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The content that the owner of the blog has written are protected pursuant to Italian Act No. 248 of 18 August 2000. Such content cannot be copied, reproduced, published or redistributed because they are the property of this author. It is prohibited to copy, reproduce, publish or redistribute this content on any support, digital or otherwise, unless this has been expressly authorised by the author, it has without the specifically authorised, particularly if such content is used for marketing purposes and/or in other Internet websites.

Copyright © 2021-2023  Digitalis Purpurea®. All rights reserved.

Skip to content