Meatballs with Ricotta, Braised in Tomato Sauce 2

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.

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

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. 

Tomato Sauce

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.

Cooking meatballs in tomato sauce

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!

Ricotta meatballs

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~

Meatballs with Ricotta, Braised in Tomato Sauce
Adding ricotta to the meatballs, and simmering them in tomato sauce ensures a lovely, soft texture. Serve over your favourite pasta, vegetable noodle or with crusty bread.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
For the sauce
  1. 2 TBSP olive oil
  2. 1/2 medium onion, diced
  3. 1 - 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  4. 1 jar (720 ml) tomato passata (strained tomatoes)
  5. 1/2 cup water
  6. 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  7. 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the ricotta meatballs
  1. 1 lb. lean ground beef
  2. 1 egg, beaten
  3. 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  4. 1/4 small onion, minced or grated
  5. 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  6. 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley or shredded basil
  7. 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  8. 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
For the sauce
  1. 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.
For the meatballs
  1. In a large bowl, gently combine all ingredients. Form into 2” balls, putting them on a plate or tray until all are made.
Putting it together
  1. 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.
  2. Serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano and shredded basil or chopped parsley.
  1. *Makes about 20 pieces, 2"meatballs.
farm girl city chef

2 thoughts on “Meatballs with Ricotta, Braised in Tomato Sauce

  • Petal

    Yum! These sound like they’d make tasty little sliders too, such a great comfort food and handy for freezer meals. Now I am hungry 😉

    • joanne Post author

      Hi Petal! Yes, I could picture them as sliders, covered with some melting mozzarella. Yum, indeed! Good to hear from you again!

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