Thursday, October 22, 2009

Experimental Ricotta Meatballs Prove to be Paradoxically Delicious

I was at it again – taking a perfectly good recipe and putting in way too much of something just to see what would happen. In this case it was a basic meatball recipe that was the object of my curiosity.

I wanted to know what would happen if I put in a relatively large ratio of ricotta cheese. What happened was tasty, very tender, and fairly light meatballs. I feared the extra mixing required to incorporate the ricotta make the meatballs tough and rubbery. I'm happy to report it did not.

The cheese actually gave the meatballs a very nice texture, and ironically, this recipe could end up being a cure for the chronic over-mixers among us. A recipe that eliminates the problem of over mixing by using an ingredient that forces you to over mix it? Is that a paradox?

While you're googling "paradox," I'm going to finish off the last of these delicious meatballs that I served with the customary spaghetti. And, by
customary I mean in America, since our Italian friends still refuse to admit how great these two things are together, and remain adamant about serving them at different courses. Hey, their loss! Enjoy.



1/2 onion, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (or 3/4 tsp table salt)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
cayenne to taste
1 pound ground beef (85% lean)
1/3 cup plain breadcrumb
1 (28-oz) jar prepared marinara sauce
1 cup water

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey! Great idea to try ricotta in meatballs. I am going to give this a shot tonight, and try 95% lean ground turkey instead of beef. My Italian ex-girlfriend would go off on you though for pronouncing it "ri-coat-a." In Italian, it is "ri-kaht-a"

Matthew said...

That's pretty nice. I usually mix up my meatball mixture with ground beef, a piece of diced bread, onions and egg yolks. Bake them until they're brown on the surfance and solid then throw it into hot tomato sauce.

Is it ok if I bake those meatballs since frying meatballs look like a hassle to me :D

And how does the Ricotta cheese enhance the meatballs? Don't we put cheese powder / grated cheese on tomato pasta anyway? I don't really get the low fat thing as well

Chef John said...

cheese on top, and lots of ricotta cheese in the meatball is a big diff. You can definitely bake them, but I used the pan since I was going to finish them in pan with the sauce anyway.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chef John, those look great! I will surely try these out cause I was planning on a Swedish style meatball & noodle dish for this weekend (my gut can't handle tomato sauces anymore--too much acid, and no more pizza for me). This could be a great change of pace for my usual meatballs I make for holiday dinner parties too. I never thought about ricotta.

So how would this blend with the ricotta go for the giant american meatball known as Meatloaf? Would it work in a large quantity or would it break down the cheese too much? Just curious.. Thanks Chef, 3 years watching you and you still rock! -Carl

Chef John said...

Thanks! Not sure about how it would translate to meatloaf. One of us will have to test that.

Anonymous said...

I will gladly accept the mission and be the one who tries it and would be happy to report back to you about the outcome. My only thought would be the ricotta would break with the oils from the meat in a 'loaf' having to cook for so long.
-Carl

Chef John said...

i would use a low oven, maybe 300 degrees F, to 155 internal temp

Fresh Local and Best said...

This is very interesting! I'm glad to know that this was a success.

Anonymous said...

I didn't sent the email, but I'm pretty sure balls/spheres only have one surface. So you can't brown all surfaces, but you can brown the surface.

And now I'm going back into the corner, pointing out typos in the New York Times to my cat.

Birder said...

What a great use for ricotta!

No truth to me wanting to try making these with way less or no beef and more of all that other good stuff...

Fabiano Mayor said...

Who said balls don't have sides ?? yes it does....it has the inside and the outside.

Anonymous said...

If it's shaped like a ball, brown the surface says it all.
CJ you come from NY so Is it a regional thing that reh-Coat-tah is pronounced Rik-COT-tah?

Bill W, NH said...

I made these last night and they were quite good. The cayenne adds a little spark that you just don't get with other meatball recipes. Do you have the Pastene line of products out on the west coast? I like their 28oz can of spaghetti sauce and used that with this dish.

Anonymous said...

People are usually concerned about over mixing their meatloaf and meatballs?!?! I wish you had elaborated. What happens if you over mix? I have never heard of this concern.

Chef John said...

if you overwork ground meat you can get a rubbery texture

milkshake said...

The ricotta-empowered meatballs recipe will live long after the foamy 'molecular gastronomy' craze is swept into the dustbin of culinary history where it belongs.

Clemenza: "Now, come over here, kid, and learn something - You never know, you might have to cook for twenty guys someday."

Alisa@Foodista said...

I will have to remember not to over mix my meatballs. Thanks for the recipe Chef John!

Anonymous said...

I've also had gnocchi made with ricotta as well. It adds a lightness that you wouldn't expect. Very good....thanks for the recipe, I love your site!

Bill W, NH said...

There's nothing like leftover meatballs for a lazy Sunday meatball sandwich lunch!!!

Anonymous said...

Tried your recipe today; they were delicious! Thanks!

Mike R, Panama City, Fl said...

WoW! I love them. Started eating them before they got to the sauce. Did a beef and pork blend and it was yummy. Small, tender, flavorful. You done good, dude! Keep'em coming. Oh yeah, you make me laugh too.

sbalcombe said...

We tried this recipe last night and used a tomato pesto sauce and it was AMAZING! i found the balls a bit easy to destroy when you were browning all "surfaces" but that probably was just because i made them all a bit too small and the pan was full from edge to edge!

We served them on spagetti with basil, and with fresh baked parm. & garlic crazy bread!

SO GOOD! :) thanks!

Anonymous said...

I really wanted to try this recipe out, but I didnt have ricotta cheese. However I did have half a stick of low fat cream cheese. I used it as a replacement and it turned out lovely. I cant wait to taste the proper recipe now!

JadedOne said...

I tried this recipe out tonight.. actually my husband did and I love it! The meatballs were very tender and I'd even suggest not adding so much ricotta. They were delicious despite that though!

I also made the marinara sauce from scratch ;D

Sassy said...

Just made meatballs. SOoo delicious!!! Thank u so much!!

Anonymous said...

I'm having a "dah" moment; did you mix the marinara sauce in with the meat mixture????

Bev

Chef John said...

no, the meatballs are just cooked in the sauce.

Beverly said...

How do I activate the video for this recipe?

Bev

Chef John said...

just hit play, seems to be working fine for me

Beverly said...

I don't see that option anywhere on the site . . . can you walk me through it?

Bev

Chef John said...

sorry I don't understand what u mean... after every post there is a video player screen and if you click on the arrow in the middle of the player it starts.

Beverly said...

I think that's the problem; I'm not getting a video screen. Is there a way (that you know of) for that to appear when I launch your site?
Bev

Chef John said...

i'm not sure. Im not a good tech guy. Ask a friend who knows computers, its probably in your browser preferences. good luck!

Marion said...

Tried the recipe: love, love, loved it!!!!!
I'm actually in Italy right now, and my Italian roommate really liked them too, although we left out the spaghetti. The Italians just don't do pasta for the main course.

A food wish from my side: I recently had some Farinata at a Pizzaria here, and absolutely loved it. Do you have a repipe for that?

Beverly said...

Hey Chef John,
I just figured out what the problem is; the videos are on You Tube and I was trying to look at them at work & You Tube is blocked. It works just fine on my home computer. Just thought I would pass this along in case it should happen to come up again.

Bev

Chef John said...

thanks! sorry i dont

Ramona W. said...

Made this meatball recipe last night 4/26, WOW!!!! they were sooo tender really they were, and very flavorful, I didn't change one thing. I may have added too much black pepper(I was excited because I couldn't find it initially) But still, major hit!

Anonymous said...

Dear Chef John

I LOVE your recipes, but I'm afraid that the cheese you used for those meatballs is not true ricotta, since ricotta has a totally different consistency. I am really afraid you used some of those "Santa Lucia Galbani" stuff, which is quite toxic.

Anyway I have no doubt the meatballs came out delicious.

Cheers
V.

Anonymous said...

Dear Chef John

I LOVE your recipes, but I'm afraid that the cheese you used for those meatballs is not true ricotta, since ricotta has a totally different consistency. I am really afraid you used some of those "Santa Lucia Galbani" stuff, which is quite toxic.

Anyway I have no doubt the meatballs came out delicious.

Cheers
V.

Anonymous said...

Thank youuuu soooo muchhh..... LOVE IT

Isabelle said...

Chef John, I adore your blog and have tried many of your recipes, and got people into your site! Now, I did the meatballs last night but they crumbled as I tried to brown them on each side! Is there a trick to this? How did you keep them together? My brother said that you have to pack them but I thought I had done so... Help!

Shaz said...

Great recipe for meat balls the kidz loved them as well which is always a winner for me.
Thanks for sharing.

GabeNeo said...

Couple of things... I noticed when frying the balls they tend to become a bit flat on two sides anyhow so they end up having top and bottoms either way. I baked the second half since I did not intend to add sauce till later.

The other thing is the ricotta seems to not only soften the balls so they stay moist anyhow but they also tend to make the balls taste a bit more bland since it absorbs the spices up a bit like soy might. Anyhow I re did the second part adding more hotsauce/cayanne and breadcrumbs to make ... well yes that goofy cliche one (or more) a spicy meatballs.

PS- your way of posting videos is refreshingly simple and humorously educational at the same time... Great work Chef J.

Peregrine said...

Thanks.
Each year I gather the family and cook a meal for everybody and classic comfort food always works best.
This was "Skeddy and Meatballs" and used your recipe.
Thanks to you I was a hero.

BTW I find your recipes to be consistant, can I ask how many times you test them before publishing?

Peregrine said...

Thanks.
Each year I gather the family and cook a meal for everybody and classic comfort food always works best.
This was "Skeddy and Meatballs" and used your recipe.
Thanks to you I was a hero.

BTW I find yor recipes to be consistant, can I ask how many times you test them before publishing?

Chef John said...

Almost never test a recipe. I've cooked most of them for decades. :)

Parker said...

I just made these meatballs and use them for a Swedish meatball recipe. No kidding, probably the best meatballs I've ever tasted. Wow they are good!

Anonymous said...

hi chef john, I've made a ton of your recipes and had a lot of success - thank you for helping me become a better cook!! My boyfriend and belly appreciate it. This recipe was the first one that did not work for me at all! they tasted great, but i could NOT get the meatballs to hold together; as soon as i put them in the pan to brown on all "sides" they just fell apart once I tried to turn them. I ended up transferring into a baking dish and baking at 350 for 20 min. They were still so delicious I'm not discouraged and want to try again, but why any idea on why didn't hold together? I even used 85% lean meat (I'm a habitual as-lean-as-i-can-get purchaser).

Chef John said...

sorry, not sure!

Kristiina said...

Would you recommend draining the ricotta first or can you use it as is?

Thanks! Looks so good

Kristiina said...

Would you recommend draining the ricotta first or can you use it as is?

Thanks! Looks delicious!

Chef John said...

If it seems watery, you can but not a big deal either way. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

No parm? INCONCEIVABLE!