Ricotta Meatballs

DSC_1459I have said before that my kids are, for the most part, pretty easy to please when it comes to food.  Neither of them likes to eat the lunches that are served in the cafeteria.  I’m not sure why.  The ladies at our school can really cook and they make some really yummy stuff.  They are not the stereotypical crazy ladies in hairnets glumping slop onto kids’ trays.  But my kids prefer to bring their lunches from home, so I make their lunches – even though that means that I pretty much make three meals a day.  Every.  Single.  Day.

Sorry.  I shouldn’t write when I’m tired.

Anyway, we started out the year with both kids requesting sandwiches.  That never lasts.  They only want sandwiches because we don’t have them often at home.  After a few days, they’re over it.

They requested a change – and by “requested” I mean that I started finding the previous day’s sandwiches only partially eaten when I went to pack lunches in the mornings.  We moved on to pasta salads.  My kids really love pasta salads and I love them, too.  There are so many things you can do to change a pasta salad and keep it interesting.  They’re also a great source of the carbs that Christopher needs for football practice.  Elizabeth would seriously eat one every day for the rest of the school year.

But Christopher has already tired of pasta salad.  Over the weekend, he mentioned that he didn’t think he wanted a pasta salad this week.  When I asked what he wanted, he thought for only a moment before telling me that he wanted meatball subs.  Really?  We went through a “Meatball Sub Phase” last year.  I just can’t wrap my head around him wanting to eat a cold meatball sub for lunch.  The kids aren’t allowed to heat up their meals, so it will be cold.  But, hey, if my boy wants to take meatball subs in his lunch, I’ll try to comply.

Last year, when I made them, I just bought frozen meatballs, took a few out, poured some spaghetti sauce over them, and put them on a bun.  He loved them.

This year, I decided I could do better.  I decided to make homemade meatballs – something I had never done before.  Some of my friends will be shocked to read that, but it’s true.  I’ve just never made them.  I’m very particular about the meatballs I eat.  I don’t like it when they’re spongy or tough.  I like them to be tender and moist.  And, no, frozen meatballs are not my preference, but the kids don’t mind them.  Anyway, I came up with a recipe that we really like.  Unlike most traditional meatball recipes, it doesn’t use Parmesan or any of the other sharper cheeses.  I used ricotta instead to get a moist texture.  And it really worked!

The result was a yummy meatball with a moist, tender texture.  I had to keep chasing the kids and Michael out of the kitchen because they kept coming in to sniggle meatballs!  I finally had to put them in containers and hide them in the back of the refrigerator so I would have them to make meatball subs with this week!

Ricotta Meatballs

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 pounds of ground beef (I used 85/15)
  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon of fresh)
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Pour the olive oil into a 13X9 baking dish and swish the pan until the bottom is completely coated.

In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef, ricotta, eggs, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Mix by hand until all ingredients are incorporated.  Roll the meat mixture into golf-ball-sized meatballs and place them into the baking dish.  Line them up in neat rows, with sides touching.  It’s okay to pack them in snugly.

Roast in the oven for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and drain off excess grease.  Pour 2-3 cups of your favorite spaghetti sauce over the meatballs and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

Well Duh #1:  I like to let the ground beef sit out of the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes before I start making these.  The meat softens a little so that everything mixes better.  And your hands don’t get as cold!

Well Duh #2:  If you’re doing the gluten-free thing, you can replace the bread crumbs with almond meal.  I’m sure there are other substitutes, as well, but that’s my favorite.

Well Duh #3:  When I make Christopher’s meatball subs, I toast the sub roll to melt slices of smoked provolone.  Then I top the cheese with meatballs that I have heated in the microwave.  You could add more sauce at this time, but I don’t because Christopher’s uniform shirts are white!



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