These ricotta Meatballs with simple tomato sauce are super easy and flavorful.

The tender meatballs are baked to perfection and are served with a light tomato sauce. They’re a must-try!

Ricotta Meatballs With Simple Tomato Sauce

We love meatballs, and quite often, I make large batches and freeze them in small packages. Then, I can enjoy them when I do not know what to make or have little time to cook.

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Perfected over 20+ Years, this is the best Meatball recipe… Ever!

My journey to perfect my best-ever ricotta meatball recipe has been long and fun. This recipe is comforting food at its finest — it’s perfect for a cozy Sunday dinner, after a crazy weeknight of running around, or for quickly trying to feed a small crowd.

Those meatballs pack some serious flavor, yet they are so soft and tender that they melt in your mouth.

The ricotta cheese with the Parmigiano and breadcrumbs gives it the best light, melting, tender texture.

Meanwhile, the parsley and Worcestershire sauce give it a rich flavor.

These ricotta meatballs are a treasure to prepare. I love them in the oven — then I have more time to prepare whatever side dish we choose to have.

You can fry or gently simmer them in a simple, delicious tomato sauce, making them golden brown and perfectly tender.

Are meatballs initially from Italy?

The origin of the first meatballs is a bit unclear, although it is believed that they first originated in Persia, where leftover meats were used to make a dish known as Kofta.

From Persia, the meatball spread throughout the Middle East to China.

In Italy, they have “Polpette,” and you can trace their Italian heritage back to the Roman Empire.

Recipes dating back to the 4th or 5th century include several varieties of meatballs made of everything from fish to chicken.

ricotta meatball

Are meatballs Italian or American?

Between 1880 and 1920, when millions of Italians left Italy and migrated to America, they brought with them the concept of meatballs.

Still, they adapted this recipe to meet their budgets at the time, using ingredients that were available to them locally.

In America, we have two popular versions of meatballs: “Italian” meatballs (or classic Italian-style meatballs) and Swedish Meatballs.

I use Italian in quotes because, and please do not be mad at me — those little balls slathered in a heavy marinara sauce and served alongside pasta are, in reality, an American creation.

Why You Will Love Ricotta Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce

Time-Saving – You can make these ahead of time and reheat them for easy weeknight meals or to feed a crowd. They’re perfect for meal prep. 

Easy – There’s little prep time, and the recipe is straightforward. 

Tasty – These meatballs are delicious — the texture is divine, and the cheese and seasonings pack just the right amount of flavor into them.

Here are a few helpful tips for the ingredients needed.

As with most delicious recipes, you only need a handful of high-quality ingredients.

Whole milk ricotta will give the richness that it needs. It replaces milk or heavy cream, something that I love to use. It created a seriously light and tender meatball.

The egg is a binding agent and holds everything together during cooking time.

Parmiggiano This nutty, rich cheese brings its unique flavor to the party. 

Ground pork.  There is lot of debate on which meat to use for meatballs. For this recipe, I opted to use only ground pork. Have your butcher direct you to the leanest ground pork they have.

Many traditional meatball recipes have ground beef and ground veal. I have fun using all three combines or whichever it’s readily available to you.

Seasoning. Less is best as you want to enjoy the richness of the meat. Worcestershire sauce gives that perfect kick. And, of course, season as needed with salt and pepper.

Do, however, season it last. Not all parmesan is the same, so you do not want your dish to be too salty.

Ricotta Meatballs With Simple Tomato Sauce

Equipment needed to make this wonderful recipe of meatballs.

I only suggest what I love and use in my kitchen.

Saucepan – to create the tomato sauce

KitchenAid mixer – My go-to for all my heavy cooking and time saver.

Ice cream scooper – assists in making all your meatballs equal in size. More straightforward to bake or cook.

Baking sheet – ovenproof with high borders.

Large pot – to cook your pasta.

Cheese grater – for your parmiggiano

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How to Make Ricotta Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce

Nothing is more manageable than this easy ricotta meatball recipe. Once you have done it a few times, you can make those divine little balls in your sleep. 

  1. Use a large bowl and start by breaking the sausage meat into small chunks.
  2. Add all the ingredients to the bowl to combine and dig in with your hands. This part is their favorite if you have little ones at your house. Once their little hands play with the food, something magical happens, and they will always want to help you in the kitchen.
  3. To mix everything, you can also use your KitchenAid stand-up mixer with the paddle attachment.
  4. Form the meatballs into 2-inch balls, about the size of a golf ball. Roll them in the palm of your hand without pressing them down, and do not overwork them.
  5. Or you can use an ice cream/cookie scooper to ensure they are all uniform in size from the get-go.
  6. Spread a little bit of butter on a baking sheet if you wish. However, it is not necessary. 
  7. Bake for the recommended time. 
  8. Serve immediately with your favorite pasta, tossed in sauce, and topped with grated parmesan.

Let’s not forget the Tomato Sauce.

When it comes to tomato sauce, as you know, there are so many to choose from. I was raised with light Italian sauces that I enjoyed all my life in Italy.

This simple tomato sauce is super easy and light. 

  • Brown the garlic in the olive oil in a skillet over medium and then remove. 
  • Add the tomatoes gently to the hot oil. 
  • Season and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. 
Ricotta Meatballs With Simple Tomato Sauce

Tomato Tip

One easy way to enjoy your fresh tomatoes is to cut them in half, remove all the internal seeds, and then grate the meaty interior part of the tomato.

This will create a fresh tomato pulp; you do not have to worry about the tomato skin. Mind your fingers as you grate.

Tips For the Best Ricotta Meatballs

  • Make sure your oven is preheated.
  • Be careful with the salt when you are seasoning. Not all Parmigiano cheese is the same, and you do not want to over-salt your meat.
  • If you are using seasoned breadcrumbs, taste them before adding salt.

What to Serve With Ricotta Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce

Enjoy these meatballs with your favorite pasta. I love tubular pasta, and here, I used mezzi rigatoni. Penne, farfalle, or spaghetti are a great combination. Toss your pasta with tomato sauce.

You can also enjoy these ricotta meatballs with some other dishes like roasted bell pepper and Italian farro salad, panzanella caprese salad, or iceberg wedges salad with blue cheese dressing.

Or, serve it alongside soups like Tuscan bean soup, roasted bell peppers cream soup, Italian wedding soup.

Ricotta Meatballs With Simple Tomato Sauce

Variations on Ricotta Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce

  • Meat – Use any kind of meat or plant-based alternative that you prefer. 
  • Heat – Add crushed red peppers to your sauce for a touch of spiciness. 
  • Vegetables – Incorporate other vegetables into your sauce, like wilted spinach, mushrooms, or diced bell peppers.
  • Fresh herbs – Use other herbs from your garden. 
  • Bread crumbs – Try using panko breadcrumbs instead of traditional bread crumbs.
ricotta meatball

Enjoy it with your favorite pasta. I love tubular pasta, and here, I used mezzi rigatoni. Penne, farfalle, or spaghetti are a great combination. Toss your pasta with tomato sauce.

I leave it up to you to mix the meatballs with ricotta and the tomatoes. Make sure you grate some fresh parmesan over every way you want to do them.

This meatball recipe with ricotta cheese is the only recipe you will ever need! ❤️

Ricotta meatballs with simple tomato sauce

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to add eggs to my meatballs?

Absolutely, YES!! The egg is used as a binder and holds the meatballs, this recipe with ricotta, or any other that you may choose to make. Without the egg, your meatball will likely crumble and fall apart during the cooking or baking process.

Can I make these ricotta meatballs ahead of time?

Yes, you can. Prep and form the meatballs ahead of time. When it is time to cook, please bring them to room temperature and proceed with the baking instructions as per the recipe.

Is it better to sear or bake the meatballs?

I personally love to bake them instead of frying the meatballs on the stove. The result is fantastic, less greasy, and a lot faster.

It is worth mentioning that they did not fall apart in the oven.

I found that when I pan-fry, they dry out faster, forming a very tough outer crust that, although gorgeous, is a bit tough to bite into. Not always cooking evenly.

My personal experience is that the baked meatballs cook more evenly and stay super tender.

What holds meatballs together besides eggs? 

If you don’t have eggs on hand when you’re making meatballs, there are a few alternatives that might help your meatballs maintain their structure. Try substituting buttermilk or plain yogurt for the egg, though keep in mind that they may change the flavor of the meatball. 

Storage 

Meatballs are an easy meal to keep stored in the fridge or freezer, as is the sauce.

Make-Ahead: You can form the meatballs ahead of time and leave them in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before baking. You can also prepare the tomatoes for the sauce ahead of time and and store them in the fridge as well. 

Refrigerator: Store meatballs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Homemade tomato sauce can be stored in an airtight container or glass jar for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Freezer: Freeze the ricotta meatballs or sauce for up to 3 months in the freezer. 

Equipment and ingredients that I used to make this recipe

Ricotta Meatballs With Simple Tomato Sauce

Ricotta Meatballs

5 from 20 votes
Ricotta Meatballs With Simple Tomato Sauce
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 people
 A super easy and so flavorful recipe. Tender meatballs baked to perfection and served with a light tomato sauce. A must-try!

Ingredients 

For The Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and end removed
  • 28 ounces San Marzano tomaotes, crushed or pureed
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For The Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • ¾ cup whole milk ricotta
  • ½ cup Parmiggiano cheese, fine grated
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • Worcestershire Sauce, Dash (optional)
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

Preparing The Tomato Sauce

  • In a saucepan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and the garlic. As soon as the garlic is golden, remove and discard.
  • Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook over medium low heat for about 25-30 minutes.

Preparing The Meatballs

  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • Mix all the ingredients by hand or in the KitchenAid mixer with the paddle. Roll out 12 meatballs. 
  • Place them on greased baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or golden brown.
  • Can be served alongside any pasta of choice. Cook pasta according to manufacturer directions. Mix the meatballs with the tomato sauce and pasta. Serve hot with freshly grated Parmiggiano cheese over it.

Nutrition

Calories: 433kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 122mg | Sodium: 179mg | Potassium: 378mg | Vitamin A: 230IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 52mg | Iron: 2mg

Giangi’s Kitchen provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as a registered dietician does not calculate them.

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Originally published on December 9, 2018.