Every time I step into the kitchen to make something it feels like I’m beginning another adventure, and I never seem to tire of it. Yet, we’re all creatures of habit, and we all have our favourites. Much like a song can get stuck on permanent loop playing round and round in your head, when I get a food idea or craving, it stays – until I do something about it.
What’s been stuck in my head lately…? Meatballs. One of my favourites, and something I make often. Over time I’ve come up with various recipes and experimented with various ways to cook them. Some of my biggest debates include what combo of ground meats to use, and, whether to pan fry, oven bake, or cook them directly in the sauce. Each has it’s merits. Each has it’s place. In the case of this kitchen adventure, it’s including ricotta cheese in the mix.
Discovering what ricotta cheese can do when making lemon ricotta pancakes I decided to try it in meatballs – it seems a lot of people do!
Ricotta cheese it would seem, is something of a chameleon in the kitchen. With good reason I’m starting to use it with abandon, and do plan to start making my own. Easy enough, by all accounts. Ricotta means recooked, and is what’s done to the whey after making cheese. Talk about another delicious example of cucina povera. While I won’t actually be making cheese (perhaps another time….) I understand you can still get good results making your own ricotta.
You can have the tomato sauce ready and simmering in about 10 minutes. It takes about as long to cook the meatballs, so once you have them rolled, you’ve got a fab meal ready in less than half an hour. If you’re going to have pasta, put the water on to boil when the tomato sauce is ready, and before you drop the meatballs into cook. If you’re going to eat like an Italian, serve the pasta & sauce first. Then serve the meatballs.
I may have been a tad aggressive adding the ricotta, with the result being a somewhat diluted tomato sauce. I’ve cut back on the quantity in the recipe, accordingly. When forming the meatballs put them on a plate or tray until they’re all finished; that way you can add them to the simmering sauce all at once. Don’t overcook them or they will toughen, even the magical properties of ricotta won’t stop that!
While they won’t have the caramelization of pan-fried meatballs, they will be tasty and with a light texture. Plus, there’s the bonus of easier cooking, no splattering, and not having to stand over the stove.
If you’re not in the mood for pasta, serve with some good crusty bread. Don’t forget a little extra parmesan cheese and something green for colour, whether it’s parsley, basil or arugula! Buon appetito~
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1 - 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 jar (720 ml) tomato passata (strained tomatoes)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 small onion, minced or grated
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley or shredded basil
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
- In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. Add diced onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add passata and remaining ingredients, simmer for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, gently combine all ingredients. Form into 2” balls, putting them on a plate or tray until all are made.
- Carefully add meatballs to pan of simmering sauce, cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Carefully turn the meatballs over and cook for about another 5 minutes. *Do not let the sauce boil as the higher temp. will toughen up the meatballs.
- Serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano and shredded basil or chopped parsley.
- *Makes about 20 pieces, 2"meatballs.