Snowy day here in Pennsylvania and although we had to postpone a family birthday celebration (complete with homemade gnocchi) due to the weather, I am waiting patiently to dig into the pot of meatballs still simmering on my stove. As many of you know, I have been on a bit of a ricotta kick over the past few months and thought it might be a nice creamy addition to the meatballs that I was preparing for the gnocchi feast. So I set out yesterday to give it a go….walaa! Result photographed above – these tender meatballs are the perfect addition to the pillowy gnocchi. Thankfully, typing up this blog gives me a diversion until it is a sane hour to dig into my sauce pot and top a few of these beauties with freshly grated parmesan and red pepper….buon appetito!
Polpettine di Ricotta e Parmigiano: Ricotta and Parmesan Meatballs
4 or 5 slices white bread, crusts removed
1/4 cup whole milk
3 large or 2 jumbo eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup ricotta cheese, drained if required
1/3 cup grated good quality parmigiano
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 pound lean ground pork
1 pound ground veal
3 ounces pancetta, diced (place in freezer briefly to make it easier to chop)
Flour for dredging meatball, optional
Olive oil for frying
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano tomatoes with juice
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, shredded
Good quality parmigiano, for grating on top
Make the meatballs:
1. In a food processor, pulse the bread until you form coarse crumbs. Place the crumbs in a large bowl.
2. In a separate small bowl, whisk the milk, eggs and ricotta. Add the ricotta mixture to the bread crumbs. Mix together. Mix in the parmigiano, parsley, salt and pepper. (If mixture feels dry for any reason, you can add in a bit more ricotta.)
3. Add in the pork, veal and diced pancetta. (Of course, you can use all one type of meat – all pork, all veal or substitute some with ground chuck.)
4. Mix in the ground meat mixture until just lightly incorporated – do not overmix. Try not to compact or squish the meat. (At this stage, I like to make a tiny ‘taster’ ball, fry it up and adjust seasonings if needed.)
5. Shape into meatballs. If the meatballs are very soft, cover and place in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes or so.
6. Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil and place over medium-high heat until hot. Place a small amount of flour in a pie pan or flat dish and dredge the meatballs in the flour to help give them a nice crust. (I sometimes skip this step when making meatballs but I thought since these meatballs were rather soft, they could use the extra coating.)
7. Fry the meatballs in olive oil until brown on all sides. Do not crowd the meatballs and do not overcook. (They will continue to cook in the sauce.) When done, drain the meatballs on a plate covered with paper towels.
Make the sauce:
1. In a large saucepot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the diced onion and cook until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute. (Careful to not let the garlic brown.)
2. In a bowl, break up the tomatoes into small pieces either with your hands or with a spoon. (Careful to stand back when squishing!) Add the tomatoes to the saucepot. Stir to mix everything up well.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Substitute red pepper flakes for the pepper if you want some heat.) Turn the heat down to low and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes to allow to thicken. Adjust seasonings if needed.
4. Add the meatballs to the pot and allow to simmer, covered, for another 10-15 minutes or so. Just before serving, stir in the shredded basil.
5. Toss with steaming pasta, homemade gnocchi (recipe coming next week!), or perhaps nestled on a crusty roll with freshly shaved parmigiano and creamy mozzarella melted on top…..mmmmm