Vegetarians will have to forgive me, but I firmly believe a person cannot have too many meatball recipes. They cook quickly, can be served with many different types of sauces, and leftovers taste as good or better as the first time around. This version was originally published in The Meatball Shop Cookbook, but it is also available online. I added my own twist to it, using almond flour instead of bread crumbs. I don’t have gluten allergies, just happen to love playing new twists on a classic.
CLASSIC RICOTTA MEATBALLS
(adapted from this version)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds 80% lean ground beef
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
about 2 cups simple tomato sauce (store-bought or home-made)
Heat the oven to 425°F.
Combine by gently beating together the ricotta, eggs, almond flour, parsley, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, and fennel in a large mixing bowl. When the mixture seems homogeneous, add the ground beef and mix by hand until incorporated.
Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs and place on a rack over a baking dish, allowing some space in between them. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through.
While the meatballs are roasting, heat the tomato sauce in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often. Add the meatballs to the saucepan, and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
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Comments: I do not remember the last time I fried a meatball. Baking works so much better! I am not even talking about excess fat consumption, but the whole preparation is much more user-friendly. Recently I found this cute baking dish with an insert that is perfect for cooking meatballs, as they sit elevated and the hot air circulates all around them. No need to mess with them once you start baking. After they are brown and almost cooked through, I add them to my sauce of choice, simmering them gently until serving time.
The almond flour and the ricotta gave these meatballs a wonderful texture, creamy but not at all heavy. You can make them smaller if you prefer, but I like them to be more substantial. The tomato sauce I used was very simply prepared: a can of tomatoes simmered with sautéed shallots, celery, and carrots. Salt and pepper. A touch of orange zest at the end.
Almond flour is not cheap, but where we live for some odd reason every once in a while it goes on sale. When that happens, I grab a couple of bags and stick them in the freezer. It is a wonderful ingredient for both sweet and savory dishes. One of my favorite cakes ever is this one, in which the almond flour shines in all its nutty glory. ;-)
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