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Meatballs with Ricotta in Tomato Sauce

Do you like Italian meatballs? I've been fishing around for a while for a good meatball recipe and have found it in this one. The basic idea is to take a base of ground pork, mix in other meat such as ground beef, pork fat, pancetta or prosciutto, add herbs, bread cubes, ricotta cheese and eggs, then brown them on high heat in the oven, add some crushed tomatoes and cook on lower heat until they are done. The following is an adaptation from a couple recipes from San Francisco's A16 restaurant (the bookA16: Food + Wineand an A16 recipe inFood and Wine). We used half ground pork and half Italian sweet sausage, with some minced prosciutto for these meatballs. Sausage because of the seasoning and the higher fat content which will help keep the meatballs from drying out. The ricotta helps as a binder and also helps smooth out the texture and enrich the flavor. We'remeatball lovershere, so if you have a favorite meatball recipe to share, please let us know about it in the comments.

INGREDIENTS

  • 10 ounces ground pork shoulder
  • 10 ounces sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing
  • 2 ounces prosciutto or pancetta, minced (helps to put in freezer for 15 min first, before mincing, will make it easier to cut)
  • 4 cups cubed white bread, crusts removed first.
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (high quality, either San Marzano or Muir Glen)
  • 1/4 cup chiffonaded* fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

* to chiffonade basil leaves, stack leaves on top of each other, then roll up leaves lengthwise like a cigar, slice thinly starting at the end.

METHOD

1 In a large bowl, add the pork, Italian sausage, prosciutto or pancetta, bread cubes, parsley, oregano, fennel, red pepper flakes, and salt. Use your hands to mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Do not over-work.

2 Whisk the beaten eggs and ricotta together in a separate bowl until there are no more large clumps of ricotta. Pour into the bowl of the meat mixture. Mix with your hands until just incorporated. Again, do not over-mix.

If you want, to test seasoning, you can take a small bit of the mix, form into a patty, and heat in a small skillet on the stovetop until cooked through. Depending on how this test patty tastes to you, add more herbs, chili, or salt to taste to the meat mixture. Keep meat mixture in refrigerator while doing this.

3 Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat the bottom of a large roasting pan with olive oil. Form meatballs in your hand, about 1 1/2-inches in diameter, using about 3 Tbsp of the mixture to form each meatball. Arrange in pan so there is some space between them. If too crowded they will steam and not brown.

4 Roast meatballs in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning the meatballs after about 20 minutes, until the meatballs are beginning to brown.

5 Remove pan from oven. Use a metal spatula to dislodge meatballs from being stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan. Carefully cover the pan with aluminum foil (carefully because the pan is still hot!) Return the pan to the oven. Lower the heat to 300°F. Cook for an additional hour to 1 1/2 hours.

Sprinkle basil into sauce before serving.

Makes about 24 meatballs. Top with grated Parmesan.

Mom's Perfect Pork Chops

Sometimes the best food is really the simplest. We experiment frequently with different ways of preparingpork chops, but the way we have pork chops most regu...

Pâté (Pate) Maison

Easy to make liver pate recipe, made with chicken livers and pork sausage, wrapped in bacon, well seasoned with herbs and spices. Also known as "pâté (pate) ...

Salsa Verde Carnitas

Carnitas are the Mexican version ofpulled pork. Braised first in a spicy sauce, pork shoulder is slow cooked until so tender the meat just shreds easily with...

Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Melted Apples

We pulled this recipe recently from the Wall St. Journal and finally made it the other night. It was absolutely melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I've never tast...

Spare Ribs, Cabbage, and Sauerkraut

Leave it to my Germanic father to find yet another twist on pork and sauerkraut. Yes, we already have a perfectly goodrecipe for spare ribs and sauerkrautwhi...

Stuffed Pork Chops with Kielbasa and Sauerkraut

My father is of German Austrian descent, so naturally we eat a lot of pork chops and sauerkraut. Recipes containing the same have almost a genetic pull over ...

Stuffed, Braised Pork Shoulder

We had a hankering for a pork roast recently and found this relatively easy stuffed pork shoulder recipe in an oldThe Good Cookcookbook on pork from Time Lif...

Vermont Maple Syrup Pork Chops

Yet another great New England recipe from the Boston Globe. We made this the other night and loved it. The maple syrup with the vinegar give it a bit of a sw...

White Beans and Sausage

Okay, so why didn't we think of this earlier? White beans, Italian sausage, tomato sauce. It's sort of likespaghettibut with white beans instead of pasta. Fi...

Pork Chops with Dijon Sauce

We found this recipe in a New York Times Sunday Magazine over a year ago and have prepared it several times since. The Dijon cream sauce perfectly complement...

Pork Roast with Cardamom Mushroom Sauce

There are two, no make that three, secrets to making an excellent pork roast. The first is tobrinethe roast; brining helps the roast retain moisture when it ...

Pork Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Can be prepared in 1 1/2 hours. My old neighborhood in San Francisco used to have a fabulous Hungarian restaurant where I loved to go for pork stuffed cabbag...

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled pork sandwiches can hardly be called sandwiches. The sauce soaks into the buns and if you tried to pick one up with your hands it would completely fal...

Vermont Maple Syrup Pork Chops

Yet another great New England recipe from the Boston Globe. We made this the other night and loved it. The maple syrup with the vinegar give it a bit of a sw...

Stuffed Pork Chops with Kielbasa and Sauerkraut

My father is of German Austrian descent, so naturally we eat a lot of pork chops and sauerkraut. Recipes containing the same have almost a genetic pull over ...

Spare Ribs, Cabbage, and Sauerkraut

Leave it to my Germanic father to find yet another twist on pork and sauerkraut. Yes, we already have a perfectly goodrecipe for spare ribs and sauerkrautwhi...

Chipotle Meatballs

Chipotle chiles are jalapeño peppers that have been smoked and dried. They are often served in an adobo sauce made with chiles, garlic, vinegar, onions and t...

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Walk into almost any taqueria in this country and you will find chile verde on the menu. The chile will likely be made with chunks of pork shoulder, slow coo...

Bacon-wrapped Pork Roast

An easy way to dress up a simple pork roast is to wrap it in bacon. The bacon fat brings extra juiciness and flavor to the roast. 1 Preheat oven to 375°F. Se...

Becca's Jambalaya

Recently I spent an afternoon helping my friend Becca cook up a large batch of jambalaya . Becca is from Biloxi, Mississippi and has been making jambalaya fo...