Here they are—the top sellers at The Meatball Shop and sure to be a big hit at home. Most traditional meatball recipes call for Parmesan or pecorino cheese. While we’re big fans of these stronger cheeses, we prefer ricotta. It’s our secret weapon. The mild and creamy consistency of this fresh cheese gives the meatballs a unique, light texture. Beef has a subtle flavor, and the ricotta is a great way to add fat and moisture to the recipe without the overpowering flavor of a sharper cheese. These are quick to prep, and baking rather than frying makes this a fast comfort food even during the busiest of weeks.–Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow
How to serve meatballs
Remember that little ditty about somebody’s meatballs that some poor hungry soul lost when somebody sneezed? Well, there’s more ways to serve your meatballs than over pasta. Like in a sandwich. Or on pizza. Or, well, you tell us. Let us know in a comment below.
Classic Beef Meatballs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds 80% lean ground beef
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 to 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 cups classic tomato sauce, (store-bought or homemade)
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C). Drizzle the olive oil in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and use your hand to slick the entire surface.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, ricotta, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, oregano, salt, fennel, and red pepper flakes. Gently mix by hand until everything is thoroughly incorporated.
- Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches in diameter), making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, being careful to line them up snugly in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another.
- Roast until the meatballs are firm and cooked through and a meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball reads 165°F (74°C), 20 to 30 minutes.
- While the meatballs are roasting, warm 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 tip the pan to remove the excess grease into the garbage. Pour the tomato sauce over the meatballs and turn to coat. Return the meatballs to the oven and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.
- Serve as desired. Originally published October 28, 2013.
TURKEY MEATBALL VARIATIONSubstitute ground turkey for the beef. That’s it. Everything else remains the same.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Wowza. I can’t believe I had never made meatballs before now! After making this recipe, they will be a regular part of the rotation. I had some friends over for a casual supper, and this made for a superb spaghetti and meatball entree with garlic bread. We kept going back for more, so nobody made it to the salad course.
The meatballs were tender and moist with a nice tang from the ricotta. Next time I might add a bit more fennel, that was a lovely flavor. I increased the recipe by one-half to feed the crowd, so three pounds of ground beef made 34 meatballs. I used 1 1/2 pounds of linguini fini and two 25-ounce jars of Lidia’s Marinara. Quick to make, just slide the pan into the oven and enjoy time with your friends. I had a nice Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano to go with the pasta. Truly a classic and simple supper to share with those you love!
This recipe creates a meatball that is firm and dense. The mixture comes together quickly and looked so pretty going into the oven. I’m not an accomplished meatballer and my meatballs usually fall apart while cooking, especially when the recipe calls for pan-frying or simmering.
When I tried these right out of the oven, I wanted to miss the cheese and garlic, and I did a bit. But once paired with a nice tomato sauce (Rao’s Tomato Basil), good pasta, and lots of freshly grated Parmigiano, they were delicious and held their shape beautifully.
My son was so inspired that he sang a rousing rendition of On Top of Spaghetti halfway through his meal (and he actually cleaned his plate!). If you’re looking for a quick, simple meatball recipe that may inspire spontaneous singing at the dinner table, you’ve come to the right place.
We enjoy meatballs in this household, so we had to give this one a tryout. This recipe resulted in a wonderfully tender and tasty meatball. We enjoyed it over some gemelli pasta, lightly tossed with a caramelized fennel tomato cream sauce. A keeper for sure!