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Tender, flavorful homemade ricotta meatballs have the perfect blend of three meats, aromatics, and spices. With this recipe, you have the option to cook them in the oven or add them to simmering sauce for a delicious pasta dinner.
I always have meatballs on hand, and these savory meatballs with ricotta cheese are my favorite. I stash them in the freezer next to my homemade pasta sauce and pull them out as needed for an easy dinner. They are one of my family’s favorites alongside this brown sugar glazed meatloaf and the best lasagna recipe!
Flavorful and moist, these ricotta meatballs are perfect for meatball subs, pasta with marinara sauce, passed hors d’oeuvres, or even a meatball beef stroganoff. You might also love these turkey meatballs or quinoa vegetarian meatless meatballs!
Why you will love this ricotta meatball recipe:
- These are flavorful, moist meatballs. The combination of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, fresh aromatics and 3 types of meat make for incredibly flavorful and moist meatballs!
- They have the perfect texture. These ricotta meatballs are so tender without being crumbly or mushy. They have just the right balance of meat, egg, ricotta and breadcrumbs to create the best meatballs you’ve ever tried.
- You can make them in advance. Simply make your meatballs according to the recipe, let them cool completely, then store them in the refrigerator or freezer for an easy meal. I usually double the recipe to have extras!
Professional Tips for Making Delicious Meatballs:
- Test for seasoning. To see if your meatballs are seasoned properly, take a small amount of the meat mixture and cook it in a skillet. Taste that bite for seasoning. If it needs more salt, you can add it and continue to test until it is seasoned to your liking.
- Mince your aromatics. The extra step of cooking the onion and freshly minced garlic is well worth it! Just make sure you mince everything fine enough so that your meatball doesn’t have large pieces of onion in it.
- Don’t overwork the meat. You will want to mix the meat until it is just combined and form the meatballs gently but firmly to ensure the meat remains tender.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic adds a deep savory flavor to the meatballs. If you can’t find fresh garlic, you can use jarred chopped garlic instead.
- Onion: I recommend using a white onion for this recipe. A yellow or sweet onion would also work well.
- Olive Oil: I always try to use the highest quality of olive oil possible. However, because the olive oil is only used to brown the meatballs in this recipe, you can use whatever olive oil you have on hand.
- Ricotta: I recommend using whole milk ricotta in this recipe for the most delicious and tender meatballs. It is possible to use ricotta with a lower fat content, but I would not use fat-free ricotta. The fat and moisture in the cheese is what helps make these meatballs extra moist.
- Ground Meat: This recipe calls for a mixture of ground pork, ground beef, and ground veal. You can use just one of these meats if you prefer, but the mixture of all three will have the best texture, taste, and fat ratio.
- Parmesan Cheese: You will need grated Parmesan cheese for this recipe. Just as you might have noticed in my ground turkey soup recipe, I prefer to grate my own Parmesan cheese from a whole block. The taste and texture are preferable to pre-grated cheese.
- Oregano: Dried oregano is best for this recipe. If you have not replaced your dried spices recently, you may want to buy a new jar. This will provide the best flavor.
- Garlic Powder: Adding garlic powder provides a concentrated garlic flavor to the meatball. I do not recommend substituting this for garlic salt, as there is already kosher salt in the recipe.
- Onion Powder: Onion powder also provides a concentrated flavor. It allows for additional onion taste without altering the texture of the meatball.
- Pepper: I recommend using freshly ground black peppercorns. This will provide the strongest, freshest flavor.
- Nutmeg: Including nutmeg in this dish adds a nutty, warm, slightly sweet flavor. If you cannot find nutmeg, I would recommend omitting it rather than replacing it with a different spice.
- Salt: I use kosher salt for my recipes. It is less salty by volume than table salt or sea salt, making it easier to taste as you go and harder to oversalt your food.
- Egg: A regular large egg will work best here. It will help bind the meatballs along with the breadcrumbs.
- Breadcrumbs: I recommend using Progresso Italian seasoned breadcrumbs if you want to save a bit of time. You could also follow my recipe for Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs to make your own!
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
- Fresh Herbs: Try adding some finely chopped parsley to the meatballs for a bit of fresh, bright flavor. Fresh herbs also pair very nicely with my red wine basil pasta sauce!
- Regular Bread Crumbs: Rather than using seasoned Italian bread crumbs, you can season plain bread crumbs with your own Italian seasoning blend. If you are not using Italian seasoned bread crumbs, be sure to double all of the spices except the salt.
- Jarred Tomato Sauce: Rather than preparing a fresh 15 minute pasta sauce, you can use a jarred tomato sauce from the grocery store. My favorite option is Rao’s marinara sauce.
How to Make Ricotta Meatballs
Use these instructions to make the perfect meatballs every time! Further details and measurements can be found in the recipe card below!
Step 1: In a sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat and gently sweat the garlic and onions. The goal is not to brown them, but, rather, to allow them to release moisture and develop a bit of flavor.
Step 2: While the onions and garlic are cooking, place all remaining ingredients in a bowl. Mix well with the back of a wooden spoon or by hand.
I prefer to mix by squeezing the meat and ingredients together because this activates the connective proteins in the meat and will help the meatballs hold their shape.
Step 3: Add the onions (they don’t need to cool) and then mix to combine.
Step 4: Spoon or scoop a golf ball-sized portion of the mixture onto a plate or tray. Roll into a ball.
If you have the time, refrigerate for one hour or up to overnight. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it will help them hold their shape while searing.
Step 5: Preheat the oven to 350°F or put about 2 quarts of sauce in a large saucepot.
Step 6: Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat with the remaining oil until it is very hot and sizzles when water is flicked on it.
Step 7: Working in batches to avoid crowding and steaming, add some of the meatballs to the pan spaced about an inch apart. Brown at least 4 of the sides and move them frequently to keep them from settling.
Step 8: Place directly in the tomato sauce if you are going to finish cooking them on the stovetop or place on a baking sheet and set aside. Repeat with remaining meatballs.
Step 9: Stovetop Method: Simmer on low until the meatballs are cooked all the way through. This will only take about 10-15 minutes
Oven Method: Bake in a preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 145°F (for the veal and pork).
Chef Lindsey’s Recipe Tip
Always have meatballs on hand by leveraging your freezer. I typically cook my meatballs in tomato sauce when I am planning to serve them, but I will prep ahead by making a double batch and then freezing the fully cooked and cooled meatballs in freezer-safe bags.
Frequently Asked Questions
Leftover meatballs can be stored in the fridge for 3 to 5 days in an airtight container. These meatballs can also be frozen. Let the meatballs cool completely, then store in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months.
Adding ricotta to meatballs creates moisture, and the fat and dairy keep them super tender. It also helps bind the meatballs without additional egg or breadcrumbs.
Searing meatballs on all sides is necessary. This will form a nice caramelized exterior that locks in the moisture. It also helps them stay together particularly, when cooked in sauce.
I recommend using three different varieties of meat – ground pork, ground beef, and ground veal – to achieve a more complex flavor and a different ratio of fat. Meatballs with only one type of meat are delicious, but this mixture really elevates the dish.
If you tried this recipe and loved it please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it goes in the comments below. I love hearing from you; your comments make my day!
- 2 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ cup white onion finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- ¼ cup ricotta cheese
- 1.12 lbs ground meat a mix of pork, beef (chuck), and veal
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese grated
- 2 teaspoons oregano dried
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper ground
- ¹⁄₁₆ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ egg
- ¼ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- In a sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat and gently sweat the garlic and onions. The goal is not to brown them, but, rather, to allow them to release moisture and develop a bit of flavor.
- While the onions and garlic are cooking, place all remaining ingredients in a bowl. Mix well with the back of a wooden spoon or by hand.
- Add the onions (they don’t need to cool) and then mix to combine.
- Spoon or scoop a golf ball-sized portion of the mixture onto a plate or tray. Roll into a ball.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F or put about 2 quarts of sauce in a large saucepot.
- Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat with the remaining oil until it is very hot and sizzles when water is flicked on it.
- Working in batches to avoid crowding and steaming, add some of the meatballs to the pan spaced about an inch apart. Brown at least 4 of the sides and move them frequently to keep them from settling.
- Place directly in the tomato sauce if you are going to finish cooking them on the stovetop or place on a baking sheet and set aside. Repeat with remaining meatballs.
- Stovetop Method: Simmer on low until the meatballs are cooked all the way through. This will only take about 10-15 minutes. Oven Method: Bake in a preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 145°F (for the veal and pork).