Classic Meatballs Recipe

This recipe makes surprisingly light meatballs, good enough to eat by themselves or in a tomato sauce on pasta. The secret here is the ricotta. The meatballs are best with more than one kind of ground meat — beef and pork, or beef and lamb are both good. The recipe is adapted from one in Epicurious, based on a recipe in The Meatball Shop Cookbook by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow.

Yield: Makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch balls

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds 80% lean ground beef (I do half beef and half pork and I imagine it would be good with half lamb too).
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
4 cups Classic Tomato Sauce

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Drizzle the olive oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.

Combine the ground beef, ricotta, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, and fennel in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.

Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another.
Roast for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165°F.

While the meatballs are roasting, heat the tomato sauce in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often.

When the meatballs are firm and fully cooked, remove them from the oven and drain the excess grease from the pan. Pour the tomato sauce over them. Return the meatballs to the oven and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.

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Michael Pollan
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