Sometimes life throws you challenges. For example: use up all the leftover cheese from your recent Wine and Cheese Party before it goes bad. Ok, so that’s kind of the best challenge ever. But worth consideration none the less, because for a cheese lover like myself, there’s nothing sadder than throwing away moldy cheese. The first cheese on the docket was 1 cup of whole milk ricotta, leftover from the Cannoli Cups we served on Saturday night. Of course our first thought was a lasagna, or something in that vein, but I wanted to do something a little more creative, and perhaps a little less overtly cheesy (you can never have too much cheese, but my annual wine and cheese party sure does tempt fate). A little Googling helped me discover that ricotta is actually a common “secret” ingredient in light and fluffy meatballs. Sold! We’ve actually never had much luck making traditional Italian meatballs in the past, but we’re always in search of the perfect recipe (I’m 75% Italian after all, so it only seems right!). The verdict….tada! Meaty success! There was a near panic moment when the first few fell apart in the pan, but we did some trouble shooting (spoon turning method described below) and the result was a bunch of tender, flavorful, awesome meatballs, cooked up in a great veggie-heavy sauce. One batch made it three meals for us: first as-written, served for dinner, then meatball subs the next day for lunch, and finally topped with a fried egg for breakfast. Winner winner, meaty dinner.
- 1 pound of meat, mixture of pork and beef (recipe called for half and half, we did 75% pork because that’s what we had)
- 1/4 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup ricotta cheese (we used whole milk, 75% moisture ricotta)
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning blend
- big pinch of salt
- small pinch of pepper
- small pinch of nutmeg
- olive oil, for browning
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 cup carrot, diced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (28-oz) can San Marzano whole, peeled tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- crushed red pepper, to taste
- To prepare meatballs, combine all meatball ingredients except olive oil in a bowl. Use your hands to gently mix until combined. Do not over-mix. Form into 16-18 meatballs.
- Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to coat the pan in a thin layer. When oil is hot, gently set the meatballs in the pan, working in batches if needed. Allow the meatballs to brown on one side, about 2-3 minutes, then use a regular old silverware spoon to gently scoop under each meatball and turn it to another side. Continue until all meatballs are browned on all sides, about 10-12 minutes. Allow meatballs to drain on paper towels while you make the sauce.
- To make the sauce, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a large sauce pan. Add onion and carrot. Saute until onion is translucent.
- Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 3o seconds.
- Add tomatoes and their juices, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Stir to combine, and use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer.
- Gently place the meatballs in the sauce. Simmer 30-40 minutes.
- Serve meatballs, topped with sauce and extra Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Note: We ate the meatballs straight, with a side of broccoli. If you want to serve the meatballs over spaghetti, you may want to double the sauce recipe.