Edit ModuleShow Tags

FreshTartSteph Recipe: Ricotta Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Mamma Mia! Pillowy and lightly cheesy meatballs!


If you're a meatball purist, this recipe is for you. I first read about these on the excellent food blog Sassy Radish. She raved about them so eloquently, I couldn't wait to try them!

And I was not disappointed. These meatballs hold no bread, no annoying chunks of under-cooked garlic, no flecks of parsley to stick in your teeth. No. These meatballs are finely ground pillows of beef, mixed lightly with ricotta, a bit of egg, and salty Parmesan, creating an unbelievably tender, subtly cheesy meatball. I served them to my son atop a tangle of spaghetti, but for me, these meatballs stand alone. I ate them with nothing more than a glass of wine, and suggest you do the same.

The meatballs originally hail from New York chef Marco Canora, via Italy, via The New York Times, which means they've traveled a long and delicious path to Minnesota. They owe their tenderness to fluffy, finely-ground meat. You can ask your butcher to triple grind it for you, or you can grind it in a food processor at home (which is what I did; took two minutes).

Don't be put off by the very soft texture of the pre-cooked meatballs. While they're a bit sticky to form, they brown very quickly, thanks to that gorgeous cheese. And speaking of cheese... I used Whole Foods' hand-dipped ricotta cheese, available in their cheese section. It's already quite dense (in fact, it's the most delicious ricotta cheese I've ever had—smooth and rich) and didn't need to be drained overnight.

Photo by Stephanie Meyer

Ricotta Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Based on a recipe by Marco Canora via The New York Times
Serves 4

Note: The recipe as printed calls for ground veal. I used ground beef with excellent results. Even though forming the meatballs is sticky work, I opted not to coat them in flour; I instead wetted my hands with cold water a few times as I went along, which worked well.

1 lb. ricotta cheese (I used Whole Foods' hand-dipped ricotta, available in the cheese section, which is already quite dense/condensed, so I didn't drain it)
1 lb. ground veal (triple ground by butcher or at home), chilled
2 large eggs
1 c. freshly grated Parmigian-Reggiano, plus more for serving
1 Tbsp. salt, or as needed
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg, as needed
vegetable oil for frying
1 c. flour, or as needed

1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 24-oz. can imported Italian whole tomatoes
1 tsp. salt, perhaps more to taste
freshly ground black pepper

Wrap ricotta in cheesecloth a day before serving and place in a sieve set over a bowl. Weight cheese, cover, and refrigerate overnight. (Note: I would place cheese in a colander lined with cheesecloth, set the colander in a shallow bowl, place something heavy on the cheese, and proceed as directed.) Cheese should then have the consistency of tofu.

The next day, combine all meatball ingredients except oil and flour in a bowl and mix with hands until completely smooth, pale, and homogenized, about four minutes. Cover and chill before shaping into meatballs.

While the mixture chills, make the sauce. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil, and then the garlic and oregano. Saute for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes, crushing one tomato at a time over the pan with your fingers and adding every bit of tomato sauce from the can. Simmer partially covered, on lowest heat (very gently), while you prepare the meatballs.

Dust a baking sheet and your hands with flour (Note: Or, use cold water). Keep remaining flour nearby in bowl. Gently form meat into 1-inch balls.

Place about 1 1/2 inches oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, fry meatballs, 4-5 at a time, moving them as little as possible. (Note: They brown quickly!). When bottoms are golden brown, after about 2 minutes, gently turn them. Fry until uniformly brown on all sides. Drain meatballs briefly on paper towels, then add to gently simmering tomato sauce.

When all the meatballs are browned, simmer, partially covered, over low heat for at least 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Can be refrigerated overnight; reheat gently. Serve meatballs in sauce alone, or over pasta, with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano passed separately.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

Have a food-related question? Email rhutton@mnmo.com

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Taste Blog

Toast the Royal Wedding with British-Gin Cocktails

As Britain’s Prince Harry and U.S.-actress Megan Markle tie the knot, raise a glass to the happy couple—and those close to you—with wedding-themed tipples

Bottoms-Up Cinnamon Caramel Pinwheels Recipe

With this fast version of a sticky bun, baking at home can be no muss, no fuss—and delicious

Leslie Bock's Newest Bar Wants to Save the Future

"We're attempting to show humans as messy and complicated."

Rosé All Day: The Best Tastings (Some Free)

More than 100 different rosé wines available to try—many for free

Wine Clubs: The Perfect Mother's Day Gift

Sip Better figures out your taste for wine and goes deep

Gavin Kaysen Takes Midwest Gold

A quick note on our 2018 James Beard Best Chef: Midwest

Sue Z.'s Charitable Check-In: May

This month, Sue Z. recommends supporting local student chefs with a dinner at Saint Dinette

Greek Yogurt Marinated Chicken Kebabs Recipe

Get fired up for grilling season with tender, flavorful chicken kebabs by meat guru Bruce Aidells and a marinade that also works well with other proteins

My Name Is Jason and I Used to Hate Brunch

Brunch has undergone a renaissance in the Twin Cities. Food critic Jason DeRusha picks his top spots for brunch this year.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags