The BEST ricotta meatballs! Juicy and soft inside and crispy outside, learn how to make meatballs with ricotta the authentic Italian way!
Loaded with flavor, these Italian ricotta meatballs are incredibly tender and juicy and sure to please both kids and grown-ups alike!
Growing up in Sicily, where ricotta cheese is hugely popular, I've been making (and eating) meatballs with ricotta for decades, and finally, I'm sharing the recipe for the BEST ricotta meatballs you'll ever make.
This authentic Italian ricotta meatball recipe features a few of my favorite flavors such as ricotta cheese, lemon zest, and parsley, which make these meatballs soft and juicy and packed with aromatic flavor.
They are totally weeknight-friendly – you can have them on the table in less than 30 minutes.
Did I mention they freeze beautifully too? This recipe is a winner for sure!
RICOTTA MEATBALLS INGREDIENTS
For these meatballs with ricotta, you'll need the most simple ingredients, in typical Italian fashion.
Here's what you'll need:
- Ground beef: Minced beef ( or ground beef/ground chuck) is the base for the meatballs. Substitute with veal mince or a mix of the two. You can use pork, chicken, or turkey mince too.
- Ricotta cheese: Homemade ricotta or store-bought ricotta makes your meatballs soft and juicy and adds a delicate flavor. Drain it well before use.
- Parmesan: Parmigiano is packed with umami flavour, and makes these meatballs soft and scrumptious.
- Breadcrumbs: Helps keep the meatballs moist. Use homemade Italian breadcrumbs, store-bought, or panko breadcrumbs.
- Parsley: It's not Italian meatballs without fresh parsley! You can also add fresh thyme for an extra aromatic note, but you can skip it if needed.
- Lemon: While this is an optional addition, lemon zest adds a citrusy note and makes the meatballs even tastier.
- Egg: It works as a binding agent, but you can substitute it with a small mashed potato if needed.
HOW TO MAKE RICOTTA MEATBALLS
This ricotta meatball recipe is the easiest out there! From start to finish it takes just about 30 minutes. Here's the step-by-step recipe:
Scroll until the end of the post for the full printable recipe
STEP 1 - Mix the ingredients.
Mix all the ingredients gently but thoroughly, until well combined.
STEP 2 - Form the meatballs.
Lightly oil your hands, and form 1-inch (2½-cm) meatballs (about 1 full tablespoon each).
STEP 3 - Roll them in flour.
Roll the meatballs in flour and place them on a baking tray.
STEP 4 - Cook the meatballs.
Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fold in the meatballs and cook them for about 3-4 minutes on each side.
Remove from the pan and serve them straight away, or mix them with classic Italian tomato sauce and serve them with pasta.
TIP: I like to prepare my tomato sauce on the side, then add in the cooked meatballs halfway through cooking time, cover partially with a lid and let the sauce simmer for a further 10-15 minutes.
For a lighter version, instead of pan-frying them, you can bake the meatballs in the oven.
Place the prepared meatballs in a single layer over a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Brush them with extra-virgin olive oil.
Preheat oven to 180C/360F.
Bake the meatballs with ricotta for 20-25 minutes, flipping them halfway through cooking time.
Yes, of course! You can use panko, homemade or store-bought breadcrumbs, or Italian breadcrumbs (pangrattato).
The most common reasons for these meatballs to fall apart is that the ricotta cheese was too watery (drain it well before use!), or the raw mixture was too warm, so try chilling the meatballs for 10-15 minutes before pan-frying or baking them.
HOW TO STORE MEATBALLS
- STORE: Refrigerate leftover meatballs in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- REHEAT: Reheat leftover meatballs in the oven at 170C/350F for 5-10 minutes, or in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.
- FREEZE COOKED MEATBALLS: Place the browned meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer the frozen meatballs to an airtight freezer-safe container or ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before cooking. No need to thaw them if you bake them in the oven.
- FREEZE UNCOOKED MEATBALLS: Place the raw meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer the frozen meatballs to an airtight freezer-safe container or ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.
WHAT GOES WELL WITH RICOTTA MEATBALLS?
- Pasta: Pasta with meatballs is the BEST. Toss them in tomato sauce and al dente pasta.
- Potatoes: Meatballs and potatoes go amazing together. Serve them with mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, or roasted potatoes.
- Sandwich: Make a meatball sandwich with two slices of ciabatta bread, mozzarella cheese, and a little marinara sauce.
- Salad: For a protein-packed meal, top your Tuscan panzanella salad or this quinoa salad with meatballs.
DID YOU TRY THIS RECIPE?
Please let me know how you liked it! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #thepetitecook!
Looking at your pictures always makes me smile *and super hungry*!
Ricotta Meatballs - Italian Recipe
- 10.5 ounces ground beef (85%-90% lean), (approx. ⅔ cup)
- 3.5 ounces ricotta cheese, well drained (approx. ½ cup)
- 1 medium egg
- 2 tablespoon breadcrumbs
- 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (approx. ⅓ cup)
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
- 3 tablespoon all purpose flour
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- In a large bowl, add the ground beef, well drained ricotta cheese, egg, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and lemon zest, and season generously with sea salt and black pepper. Mix to combine all the ingredients.
- Lightly oil your hands, take off a small piece of the mixture and gently roll it between your hands to form 1-inch (2½-cm) meatballs (about 1 full tablespoon each).
- Place the flour in a bowl, and roll each meatball into flour, shake the flour in excess and arrange them on a baking tray covered with parchment paper.
- Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fold in the meatballs and leave them undisturbed until they are brown on one side. Shake the pan to loosen the meatballs, then turn each one with kitchen tongs and cook them on the other side for 4-5 minutes.
- Remove the meatballs from the pan, and arrange them on a plate covered with paper towels to absorb the oil in excess. Transfer the meatballs to a large serving plate and serve, or mix them with tomato sauce and serve with pasta.
- breadcrumbs & flour: substitute with gluten-free breadcrumbs and flour for gluten-free ricotta meatballs.
- ground beef: substitute with ground veal, ground pork or ground chicken.
- Store: Refrigerate leftover meatballs in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Reheat: Reheat leftover meatballs in the oven at 170C/350F for 5-10 minutes, or in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.
- Freeze uncooked: Place the raw meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer the frozen meatballs to an airtight freezer-safe container or ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before cooking. No need to thaw them if you bake them in the oven.
- Freeze cooked: Place the cooked meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer the frozen meatballs to an airtight freezer-safe container or ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.