What Are Ricotta Meatballs?

A. Leverkuhn

The dish commonly known as ricotta meatballs is a take on the classic meatball, a mix of meat, egg, and breadcrumbs. Ricotta meatballs are infused with ricotta cheese, which has a light, almost spongy consistency, to enhance the texture and flavor of the meatball. Otherwise, these are similar to other kinds of meatballs, especially those that are used in traditional Italian dishes like spaghetti, or in sub sandwiches.

Ricotta meatballs are a savory dish made with ricotta cheese.
Ricotta meatballs are a savory dish made with ricotta cheese.

Many cooks will start the ricotta meatballs by sautéing or “sweating” onions and garlic in a pan. They will then blend in the egg and ricotta cheese. Some cooks point out that it helps to add the egg and cheese cold, in order to quickly cool down the previously cooked components. Otherwise, excessive heat could have an adverse effect on the cold ingredients.

Cooks also add spices, such as salt and ground black peppercorns, to the mix. Other spices, like cayenne pepper, may also be added. In general, each cook can add spice components to flavor the dish any way that he/she wants, where classic Italian spices and herbs like oregano, garlic, onion powder, or others may be added to the finished meatball.

The meat, which can be beef, veal, or a mixture, toward the end of the process. Parsley or other greens may also go into the mix. The resulting mixture is then blended for cooking. It’s important to note that many cooks recommend a slightly less blended approach to meatballs in order to get optimal textures. This is really a matter of personal preference.

When meatballs are fully blended, they then need to be shaped and cooked. Shaping can be done with an ice cream scoop or similar tool to make sure the balls are of consistent size. These are then cooked in many different ways. Some cooks brown them on the range before either baking or slow cooking.

Presentation for ricotta meatballs varies widely, according to how they are promoted on a menu or served at home, whether in classic dishes or in sandwiches. The meatballs may receive more sauce elements when placed with pasta, where sandwich meatballs need to be relatively dry to avoid soaking the bread. Typically, the fat of the meat enriches the sauce the same way that regular meatballs do, for a robust taste, while the ricotta cheese adds a textural element and a more luxurious flavor.

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