Ricotta and beef meatballs. An Italian classic!


In the collective mind of Americans, spaghetti with meatballs is one of the most popular Italian dishes.

Actually, this is partly true, considering that in Southern Italy they do dress spaghetti with meatballs and sauce.

But since I come from Northern Italy, I grew up eating just the meatballs as a main dish, possibly accompanied by mashed potatoes.  The meatball recipe I’m excited to be sharing with you this week is one of my grandmother’s “classics”!

She used to make a lot of meatballs all at one time, and then she cooked part of them immediately by simply frying them in olive oil.  The rest were cooked in a tomato sauce, and eaten in the next few days.  This is why I give you the quantities for a big pan of meatballs; they are just as delicious as left-overs, or you can freeze them, without loosing any of the taste.

Meatballs are a simply delicious meal, and like many other dishes that I’ve already described in my past posts, this one also finds its roots in the tradition of the Veneto Region.


INGREDIENTS for the meatballs

2 lbs. ground beef  (1 kg. carne macinata)

1 lb. plain Italian sausage- without fennel seeds (1/2 Kg. salsiccia)

1 lb. ricotta (1/2 kg. ricotta)

3 eggs (3 uova)

1/4 cup parmesan cheese (1 pugno grana)

sea salt to taste, I suggest about 3 pinches (3 bei pizzichi di sale)

2 pinches nutmeg (2 pizzichi noce moscata)

1 pinch dry rosemary (1 pizzico rosmarino)

1 tsp. fresh or dry parsley (1 cucchiaino di prezzemolo)

optional: a clove of garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup bread crumbs (1 pugno pan grattato)

all purpose flour for breading (farina per la panatura)

olive oil or vegetable oil for frying (olio d’oliva per friggere)


5 tbs. olive oil (5 cucchiai d’olio d’oliva)

30 oz. (2 cans) tomato sauce (2 barattoli di polpa di pomodoro)

1/2 medium white onion, chopped (mezza cipolla tritata)

1 clove of garlic (1 spicchio d’aglio)

salt and pepper to taste (sale e pepe qb)

1 tsp. crushed red pepper (1 cucchiaino peperoncino)

1 tsp. rosemary (1 cucchiaino rosmarino)

1 tsp. basil (1 cucchiaino basilico)

DIRECTIONS for meatballs:

In a big bowl mix the ground beef, Italian sausage, ricotta, eggs, parmesan, and spices/herbs (all ingredients except breadcrumbs).

When all the ingredients look amalgamated, add the bread crumbs, and keep mixing.


Put the mix in the refrigerator to chill, and meanwhile prepare the tomato sauce.



DIRECTIONS for tomato sauce:

In a large pan, brown the chopped onion and the garlic clove in olive oil.

When the onion looks golden, add the tomato sauce and all the herbs/spices.


When the tomato sauce reaches boiling, turn the burner to low heat, and let it cook for about 15-20 minutes, covered.

If the tomato sauce becomes too dry before 15 minutes, add a couple tbs. of water.


While the tomato sauce is cooking, take the meatball mix out of the refrigerator and start to make small balls.



Each meatball should be made with about 1 tbs. of meat mixture (remember that the smaller your meatballs are, the taster they will result).

Then flour each meatball evenly.


Into a large pan pour about 5 tbs. of olive, switch on the heat, and when the oil is hot, start to brown the meatballs all around.

Cook at medium heat for about 10 minutes. They have to become brown slowly, so they don’t stay row inside.

Considering that you will obtain plenty of meatballs, you’ll probably run out of olive oil in your pan.  So, I suggest to rinse and wipe out the pan when the oil in the pan begins to burn, and use new oil to brown the remaining meatballs.

You can eat the fried meatballs immediately, or mix them in the tomato sauce.

Once the tomato sauce is ready, take the garlic clove out of the pan, mix the browned meatballs in it, and let them cook together at medium heat for about 5 minutes, to allow the tomato to get the meatballs’ taste!





– I’ve never made spaghetti and meatballs because to me meatballs are already rich enough, but if you want to make them to dress your pasta, you’ll get a really great entree!

– As I told you in the header, if you make the meatballs before dinner, you can just fry them and enjoy them without tomato sauce.

– As side dish, I suggest mashed potatoes or any other veggies.  Of course with french fries the combination would be perfect…  if you just don’t care about calories 🙂

– If you have meatballs leftover,  freeze them only once they are cooked and mixed with the tomato sauce.

2 thoughts on “Ricotta and beef meatballs. An Italian classic!

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