These baked Italian style ricotta meatballs are tender and big on flavor! Serve them with pasta of your choice, in a sub roll or as an appetizer. They are freezer friendly and easy to make.
These are absolutely delicious Italian style ricotta meatballs in a rich, tomato sauce. To a lot of people, home-style comfort food doesn’t get any better than the classic Italian meatball. Meatballs and spaghetti aren’t just for nonnas and restaurants any more, either. Meatballs have gone global, and you can even find them in IKEA!
Today, however, we’re looking at the undeniable old-school cool of Italian meatballs made with veal. We’re adding some breadcrumbs, ricotta, and only the freshest, most aromatic herbs to make this a truly authentic, delicious experience for your whole family. Madonne!
Key Ingredients for Best Italian Ricotta Meatballs
- Ground veal – In Italy, the main protein varies by region, as does much of the cuisine. Fortunately, we’ve worked out that for the best meatballs, you need veal.
- Ricotta cheese – Our secret weapon here is ricotta cheese. This soft, milky cheese is perfect for meatballs as it adds juiciness and tenderness but isn’t runny. You won’t have waterlogged or dry meatballs when using ricotta cheese, we promise.
- Italian breadcrumbs – Italian breadcrumbs are absolutely perfect for these meatballs. Of course, if you have fresh breadcrumbs (or a loaf of bread just waiting to be turned into fresh breadcrumbs), we encourage you to use those instead. Back in Italy, cooks always use fresh breadcrumbs.
- Eggs – Eggs are the key binding agent for this recipe, just like when you’re baking. This helps your meatballs retain their characteristic ball shape. Otherwise they would simply fall apart, and you’d have a ragu. Still delicious, but not what we’re making today.
- Parmesan – As always, we strongly recommend that you use Parmigiano Reggiano if you can get it. A lot of delis and grocery stores, especially in Italian neighborhoods, carry imported reggiano from Italy. It has to be made using a strict set of standards in the emiliano-reggiano region of northeastern Italy. It’s the king of cheeses, with a unique flavor that has to be tasted to be believed.
- Aromatics – We’re using the old reliables of Italian seasoning, parsley and pepper.
How to Make Ricotta Meatballs
- Add the garlic cloves, parsley and onion to your food processor, pulse until finely minced, scraping down the sides if needed.
- In a medium bowl combine the breadcrumbs with milk and set aside to soak for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl combine the mixture with the ground veal, egg, the soaked breadcrumbs, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, ground black pepper and salt. Gently mix just until combined. Don't over mix or it will be tough.
- Form the mixture into 18-20 2.5-inch meatballs. Arrange the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with olive oil or spray with cooking oil spray.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. You can broil them in the last 5 minutes.
Tomato Sauce Ingredients
- While the meatballs are baking, let's make the sauce. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook further for 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Pour the tomato passata/ marinara into the skillet and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 4-5 minutes. The sauce will thicken slightly during cooking.
The Secret to Great Meatballs
They say the secret ingredient in Italian food is love, and they couldn’t be more right! Taking the extra time and care to ensure your meatballs are the best on the block (and maybe even better than the next block’s, too) is the ultimate way to say “I love you”.
- We’re going to be generous with our ricotta and herbs to make these extra flavorful. We’ll be baking them, broiling them, and of course finishing them in a mouthwatering red sauce.
- These meatballs are anything but heavy. They are light, rich, and tender. No dry meatballs, no tough meatballs. They are juicy, airy, and they will melt right in your mouth. That’s thanks to our painstaking choice of ingredients and, of course, the unparalleled preparation.
- These meatballs are also very versatile! You can eat them over spaghetti, of course, but they go well with just about anything. You could put them in a nice sub with plenty of parmesan cheese, or serve with a simple rustic tomato sauce as an appetizer. In fact, the meatball by itself with sauce, called polpetti in Italian, is exactly the way they were served in the old country.
- We’ll be carefully mixing the meatball mix, so as not to overwork it and make it too tough.
Ricotta cheese is a soft, creamy whey cheese often made from the milk of a sheep, cow, goat, or even the Italian water buffalo.
Back in Roman times, ricotta was made, and mostly consumed, by the shepherds surrounding the hills of Rome. Today, fortunately, you don’t need a herd of sheep to get your hands on high-quality ricotta. You can find it at just about any store!
You’ll find ricotta in the refrigerated section of your grocery store with the other soft cheeses and dairy products.
We strongly recommend that you use whole milk ricotta when making this recipe, as the extra fat will help both with the flavor of your meatballs and the texture.
Serve your meatballs in a simple sauce of tomatoes and aromatics. Bake them first, then simmer them in the sauce so it penetrates and permeates the meatballs.
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