Wednesday, January 14, 2015

beef and ricotta meatballs.

Last week when I discussed banana bread I mentioned that this blog already had 2 banana bread recipes and that by discussing a 3rd I may over-saturating this blog's banana bread market.  Well today I am back with a meatball recipe and if you are a somewhat regular reader of this blog you will know that I already have 2 meatball recipes on this blog (here and here), and much like the banana bread, I'm not sure I need a third.   

(But! This recipe is really good so I've decided it warrants inclusion.)

Everyone and their mother has a default meatball recipe.  Probably the same one their mother made. Most people don't seek out new recipes for the classic comfort food of their youth (myself included) but this recipe with the inclusion of ricotta instead of milk really caught my eye.  Since I've never shied away from a recipe that allows me to incorporate more cheese then should be allowed, it was only a matter of time before I made these.  

You would think replacing milk with ricotta would make these meat balls absurdly heavy but rather the opposite happens.  They are light.  Incredibly light and flavorful despite the fact that they require only a handful on ingredients.   They also come together in 10 minutes (especially if you can convince your significant other to help you in the kitchen) making these absolutely superb for week night dinners.  And, if you are really smart (and I hope you are), stuffing these into a roll with a shmear of ricotta (more cheese is never a bad thing), some oven-dried tomatoes, a handful of arugula, and a sprinkle of cracked black pepper and Parmesan will result in you consuming the best sandwich ever (seriously the best sandwich ever).  

Beef and Ricotta Meatballs
Recipe adapted from Tasting Table

Yield: 25ish meatballs

This is the time to get the good ricotta.  The ricotta from the Italian market or your neighborhood Whole Food's.  We are looking for minimal ingredients and no additives.  Oh and yes - splurge on the grass-fed beef.  

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or basil
2 eggs
1½ cups fresh whole milk ricotta
2½ pounds of ground beef, preferably grass-fed
1 cup finely ground fresh breadcrumbs
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch (or two if you are like me) of crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a medium skillet set over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and add the garlic.  Cook for 30 seconds or until the garlic just begins to brown. Add the thyme, oregano and parsley and cook for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, then fold the ricotta cheese into them. Using your hands, mix the cheese-egg mixture with the beef, the reserved onion mixture, breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese until just combined. Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.

Using a 1½-inch scoop, scoop the meatballs into rounds; roll each scoop into a 1½-inch ball. In a medium skillet set over medium heat, add the remaining tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the meatballs and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.  Place the meatballs on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes or until the internal temperature of each meatball is 140°. Serve warm. (Alternately you can just bake them.  Increase the cooking time to 20-25 minutes.)

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