Ricotta Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Who doesn’t love a good meatball? I certainly do, and I have done since I was a kid. It was extra special when my brothers and I would find meatballs in Mum’s sauce dish, rather than the usual meat that accompanied our weekly Sunday pasta dinner. Funnily enough, I now enjoy those slow-braised pieces of beef that fall off their bones so easily, and appreciate that those bones have given the sauce not only intense flavour but provide a mega-hit of nutrition as well.

I stumbled across a great recipe for meatballs in tomato sauce that the whole family loves. What makes these meatballs so great, I think, is the ricotta cheese. They make them so moist and tender, and that’s what you want in a meatball. I’d been making tough, rubbery ones for years and now I know why!

We eat these meatballs on top of creamy, cheesy polenta but of course they would be perfect with spaghetti or simply with a chunk of crusty bread (slathered in butter no less!).

Ricotta Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Inspired by Zahlicious

For the meatballs:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 kilo minced organic or grass-fed pork and veal or beef (or a combination of all three)
1 cup ricotta (the proper stuff from the deli)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
4 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 750ml bottle of tomato passata, or two tins of whole, peeled tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan. Cook the onions and garlic slowly until translucent. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the mince, onions and garlic, ricotta, eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, dried herbs, parsley, salt and pepper. Don’t overwork. Form into balls, any size you wish. The bigger the meatball, the longer it will take to cook though. Arrange on a plate and refrigerate while you cook the sauce (meatballs can be stored in the fridge over night if need be).

For the sauce, heat the oil and butter in a wide-bottomed saucepan. Add the garlic and cook gently, so as not to burn the garlic. When the garlic is fragrant, add the sauce/tomatoes, the white wine and the water. Bring to a gentle boil then turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Next, add the meatballs to the pan very gently so they don’t break. Cook them, turning them over occasionally, until they are cooked through, about 30-40 minutes. When serving, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and extra parsley.

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