Meatballs with Fresh Ricotta

Every Saturday night the Southern husband and I have what we call The Restaurant Project.  We have a long list of restaurants we want to try, and each Saturday we try a new one.  We’ve kept it up for two years now (and all I can say is thank goodness for the GPS) but as you can imagine, we’ve now seen a lot of menus…and one thing that’s been popping up on a lot of them is meatballs with ricotta.  Not spaghetti with meatballs…just meatballs. With ricotta. And every time I saw it I got a little more obsessed, until one day I snapped.  It had to happen in my kitchen.

Now, I didn’t have to think for more than 5 seconds about the sauce…it needed to be the tomato butter sauce that I am completely obsessed with making.   Light, creamy, perfect.  Next I worked on my old standby approach to meatballs until I could start them on the stove and finish them in the sauce.  So far, so good.

Now obviously one of the key parts to this recipe is the ricotta.  No supermarket stuff for me…I look for any excuse to make fresh ricotta.  It’s fast and fabulous and super-easy, and if you haven’t tried it, you really MUST!  It takes all of 15 minutes, and it’s worth every single second.

Fresh ricotta draining over the sink

Okay!  Sauce, check.  Meatballs, check.  Ricotta, check.  It needed one last thing.

This beautiful bouquet was the last crop from this winter’s herb Aerogarden, and this recipe meant I could end the winter basil crop with a bang!  I sliced the leaves into a pretty little chiffonade, and just like that, I realized why this was on everyone’s restaurant menu.  Who needs pasta, anyway? Maybe a little bread on the side…but that’s it! Happiness is meatballs with ricotta.

Meatballs with Fresh Ricotta
Serves: 3-4 servings, depending on how many meatballs you like!
  • ¾ pounds meatloaf mix (1/4 lb each ground beef, veal and pork), or you can use all ground beef
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups of tomato sauce (homemade or jarred)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese at room temperature
  • ½ cup slivered basil leaves
  1. Make meatballs by combining meat, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, pepper and cream in a bowl. Mix together well and form into 12 meatballs. (These can be done ahead and refrigerated.)
  2. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high, and add meatballs. Brown on all sides, turning gently, until they are browned but not cooked through, about 7-10 minutes total.
  3. Pour sauce into a large saucepan. Carefully add meatballs, and heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until meatballs are cooked through.
  4. Divide meatballs among plates, top with ricotta and slivered basil. Serve at once with bread on the side if you like!

Still Hungry?

Skillet Spaghetti and Meatballs from Framed Cooks

Meatball Pizza from Leite’s Culinaria

Mexican Meatball Soup from Framed Cooks


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  1. says

    I LOVE the idea of your restaurant project! My roommate in college and I did something similar while we were in Boston…I need to get it going again now that I’m back in NYC.

    Oh ricotta, you make everything so delicious. Love this.

    • Kate says

      Absolute hands down favorite is Esty Street in Park Ridge! We also love Picnic in Fair Lawn and both Velo and Hudson House in Nyack a lot. And of course the classic for sliders, White Manna in Hackensack. :)

  2. Karen Nelson says

    So… What is your favorite meatball recipe??
    This is great btw… We are cutting way down on carbs!

  3. AC says

    I love making homemade ricotta and these meatballs look amazing. But what to do with all that whey that drains out from the cheese? Any clever uses for it? I hate to waste it!

    • Kate says

      I’ve had some readers tell me to use it instead of milk in pancake batter…that it will make them taste AMAZING – I haven’t tried it yet but it’s high on my to-do list!

  4. says

    I made this yesterday but instead of Ricotta I used rice and it was totally jummy! I was worried that the meatballs would not cook in the amount of sauce I had, but it turned out perfect! They were so soft on the inside while totally cooked. Thanks!

    • Kate says

      My pleasure! Glad you liked it…I do love how meatballs turn out when they are cooked in sauce. Yum!


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