These meatballs are so moist and flavorful I had to shoo my family away so I could get some to the table! They are so great that they easily stand alone. When I made my tester for seasoning adjustment my husband asked me to save a bunch on the side for him before the family came over and ate them all!
Skip the balling process and make 2 meat loaves out of this recipe. Less clean up and all the same deliciousness. Pair it with some buttered egg noodles or garlic-parmesan mashed potatoes. Yum.
I made this recipe with 100% grass fed beef, but you could easily swap in ground pork, lamb or whatever you prefer. Another great way to add flavor to meatballs is to substitute half of the ground meat for loose sausage to really pack them with flavor. This recipe makes about 60 1.5T scoop meatballs.
1.5T scoop (optional)
Sauté pan or Large dutch oven
1 medium onion, minced
2T olive oil
1/2t crushed red pepper (or to taste)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2lb. ground beef
2c ricotta cheese (if not homemade, Luizzi or Biazzo whole milk are the best)
1/2 c freshly grated Pecorino Romano
2T dried parsley or 1/4c fresh parsley, minced
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2/3c breadcrumbs (I always use 4C seasoned because that is what my grandma used! Use GF if needed.)
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1. In large sauté pan heat 2T oil and add minced onion and a pinch of salt, sauté. When almost translucent add in crushed red pepper and minced garlic. Set aside to cool.
2. In large bowl place all ingredients and mix with your hands until well combined.
3. Make a test patty and cook, searing on both sides in your onion sauté pan until cooked through. Let sit for a few minutes and then taste to assess if it needs adjusting. You can adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, parsley. You can adjust moisture level by adding more ricotta or breadcrumbs. Following recipe exactly, every time it is perfect for us, but if you prefer something different always adjust before cooking the whole batch!
4. Shape the balls: You can use a scoop for this or eyeball the size and shape. Pro tip: If your hands are getting too sticky run them under a little cold water occasionally.
5. Cook right away in the pan you used to cook the onion or you can make them the next day. If searing in the pan add a swirl of oil in the pan, heat and sear the meatballs on all sides until cooked through. (Complete sauce recipe below.)
IF you want to cook these in sauce this is a second part of the recipe:
Large dutch oven
2T vegetable oil
1lb. sausage links (optional)
2 small or 1 large onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic sliced thin
1/2t crushed red pepper
1/2-1t dried oregano
3T tomato paste
3 28oz cans San Marzano tomatoes, rinsing empty cans with about 1/4c water each and adding to the pan.
1 fresh basil stem with leaves (remove at end)
1 parmesan rind if you have it on hand (remove at end)
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat oil in dutch oven. If using, sear off the sausages to get color (flavor!), set aside on plate. Sear off your meatballs just enough to get color on 2 sides, carefully flip/remove with spatula so they don’t fall apart. You will have to do this in 2-3 batches, hold all seared meat on the side while making the sauce in the same pan with all that delicious fond you created.
2. In the dutch oven (add oil if needed or pour off some fat if there is too much from the meat) sauté the onion until soft with a pinch of salt, scraping up all of the fond with the spatula. Add in the crushed red pepper, oregano and garlic and sauté gently one more minute.
3. Stir in tomato paste and cook a few minutes to develop flavor.
4. Add in San Marzano tomatoes adding in the water from rinsing out the cans. (Use every bit!) Crush the tomatoes with the back of your wooden spoon. and bring to a simmer.
5. Add all of the meat back to the pan to cook through, at least 30 minutes up to a few hours. Right before serving take out the sausages and cut into more shareable pieces. Remove basil stem and parmesan rind. Season to taste at the end with more salt and freshly ground pepper.
You can make these completely ahead and heat at meal time or you can make the mix ahead or shape them ahead and cook them right before eating. If you don’t want to sear them individually (I suggest it because that color is flavor) you can cook them completely in sauce or you can cook them in the oven on a sheet pan at 375* until cooked through.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all about the pasta and I did serve this batch mostly with spaghetti, but for my gluten-free and health focused family and friends spaghetti squash is a really great alternative! Due to the tender nature of the meatballs the delicacy of the squash is perfect. I will post a recipe for super simple spaghetti squash soon. For a quick heads up… Cut it in half top to bottom, rub inside with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place flesh side down on parchment lined sheet tray and roast at 400* for 30-45 minutes depending on the size until it is very tender. Scrape out with a fork or two. It is great on it’s own, substituted for spaghetti or added into complementary dishes.
I hope you try these with the ones you love, they will be so happy! Let me know how you liked it or if you have any questions!