March 9 is National Meatball Day. Now, if you’ve got some make-ahead meatballs in the freezer, go with that. But I wanted something new, so I’m going with Ricotta Meatballs.
First, a little history. While many people think that meatballs came to the United States from Italy, that isn’t the case. As far as historians know, meatballs were first created around the 2nd century B.C in China. From there, it’s believed that the meatball moved across the Mideast and finally traveled trade routes to make it throughout Europe. Spaghetti and meatballs were actually an invention of Italian-Americans. Later on, these Italian-Americans would introduce meatballs to Italy. Today, just about every culture on the planet has its own form of meatball recipe. (holidayscalendar.com)
I have to admit, I never would’ve thought to use ricotta cheese in a meatball, but when I saw this recipe on allrecipes.com, I was hooked! The cheese creates an unexpected tenderness in the meat mixture. In fact, The Carnivore compares it to veal. I’m not sure he believes that it only uses ground beef!
Like most meatball recipes, this one is flavored with onion, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Bread crumbs give structure and a beaten egg helps hold it all together. Pretty simple, really. Or, if you have a preferred combination of spices, go with that.
Once the meatball mixture is formed into balls, they are fried in a big skillet.
I can add my sauce right to that same skillet which I appreciate. Anything to reduce the dishwashing, amirite?
Serving ideas: Placing these tender meatballs into marinara sauce makes a wonderful, melt-in-your-mouth dish to serve many ways.
Are you low carb? The sauce works great on zoodles or spaghetti squash.
Or, grab some hoagie rolls and serve as sub sandwiches.
Or, serve traditionally on spaghetti noodles.
Ricotta Meatballs: simple and tasty!
- ½ medium onion minced (or one small)
- 4 TB olive oil divided
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 cup ricotta cheese whole milk
- ¼ cup packed chopped Italian parsley
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper or to taste
- 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1 28 oz jar marinara sauce
- 1 cup water
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the onion and sauté about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and turn off the heat. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.
- Add ground beef, ricotta cheese, parsley, egg, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Stir with the onion mixture until almost combined, then add the breadcrumbs and continue to mix until thoroughly blended.
- Roll about 2 tablespoons of mixture (I used a small cookie scoop) into a one-inch ball. Continue with all the mixture to form the meatballs.
- Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into the same skillet used to cook onions. Place skillet over medium heat and add the meatballs. Brown meatballs on all sides in the hot oil, about 5 minutes. If the pan contains excess grease, use a crumpled paper towel held by tongs to remove grease from the skillet.
- Pour marinara sauce and water over the meatballs in the skillet. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes until meatballs are cooked through and no longer pink in the center.
- Serve with pasta or rolls for a meatball sandwich.
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