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Ricotta Meatballs (4 ways!)

These Ricotta Meatballs are so tender and flavorful! Serve them in a sub roll, with pasta, or with a simple side salad. BONUS: They’re easy to make on the Stove Top, Crock Pot, and can be oven baked 2 ways! They’re also make-ahead and freezer friendly.

A skillet filled with Ricotta Meatballs in marinara sauce with herb ricotta on top.

Ricotta Meatballs

I can never resist a juicy, flavorful meatball, but when that meatball is combined with a creamy herb ricotta mixture, it takes things to a whole new level. 

The combination of half and half and breadcrumbs creates the perfect panade which is further enhanced by 1 whisked egg, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, simple seasonings, and of course, creamy herb ricotta. 😉

What is a Panade

A panade is a mixture of starch and liquid that is combined to form a paste. It’s mixed in with meat for meatballs, meatloaf, or burgers to preserve the tender texture of the meat.

When meat cooks, the proteins expand and contract and in doing so, moisture escapes. The starch in the panade turns to a gel when cooked and lubricates the fibers in the meat as it cooks.

How to Make It

See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions. This is an overview of the stove top method. 

Combine the ricotta herb mixture and set aside. Sautee the onions until softened, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Set aside and let cool.

A bowl of herb Ricotta next to a skillet of sauteed onions and garlic.

Combine the eggs, half and half, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, Italian seasoning, mustard powder, and ¾ cup of the herb Ricotta mixture in a large bowl. Mix in the cooled onions/garlic.

Season the ground chuck with salt and pepper, add it to the large bowl and gently mix it with your hands until combined.

Combining meatballs with a ricotta panade in a large glass bowl.

Roll into 1 ½-inch meatballs and transfer them to the fridge for 15 minutes.

Brown the meatballs in oil in batches, leave plenty of room around each so that you can easily rotate them. Remove and set aside.

Ricotta meatballs before and after browning.

Add marinara sauce to a large high-walled skillet and add the meatballs. Spoon the sauce on top. Cover partially and simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. Add 9 dollops of the remaining herb ricotta over the top during the last 15 minutes. Serve!

Adding ricotta meatballs to a skillet or marinara sauce with melted ricotta on top.

Make-Ahead Method

  • Brown and Refrigerate: Assemble and brown the meatballs as outlined. Let them cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Add them to the sauce and give 10 additional minutes of simmering time.
  • Brown and Freeze: Assemble and brown the meatballs as outlined. Let them cool completely. Place on a baking sheet or plate and freeze for 1-2 hours. Remove and transfer to a gallon freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. They can be thawed in the fridge overnight or added to sauce from a frozen state until warm and cooked through.

Pro Tips

  • I use Rao’s marinara sauce with this recipe, it’s the best marinara sauce you’ll ever try! Feel free to make this with my easy homemade marinara sauce as well.
  • A combination of ground chuck, ground pork, ground sausage, and ground veal can be used in these meatballs as well.
  • Grate the Parmesan cheese from a wedge for best flavor and consistency, try to avoid using packaged grated cheese. I use Belgioioso Parmesan cheese. 

Storage

  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

A skillet of Ricotta Meatballs in marinara sauce with a wooden spoon.

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Ricotta Meatballs

5 from 4 ratings
These Ricotta Meatballs are easy to make on the stove top, bake in the oven, or cook in the Crock Pot! They are so flavorful and are perfect with pasta, in a sub, or with a side salad!

Ingredients

Herb Ricotta

  • 15 oz. Ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

Meatballs

  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Egg, whisked
  • ½ cup half and half, can sub cream
  • ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped parsley, plus more to garnish
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • ½ teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 lb. ground chuck, 80% lean
  • ½ lb. ground pork, or ground sausage or veal

Instructions

  • Combine the Herb Ricotta mixture and set aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet and add the finely diced onion. Soften for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Set aside and let cool.
  • In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half and half, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, Italian seasoning, mustard powder, and ¾ cup of the herb Ricotta mixture. Add the cooled onions/garlic.
  • Season the ground chuck with salt and pepper, add it to the large bowl and gently mix it with your hands until well-combined. (Don’t overwork the meat or it will become tough.)
  • Roll into 1 ½-inch meatballs and transfer them to the fridge for 15 minutes.
  • Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Use enough oil to cover the meatballs almost halfway.
  • Brown the meatballs in batches, leave plenty of room around each so that you can easily rotate them without having to pick them up to flip them. Brown for about 1 ½ minutes per side. Use kitchen tongs to remove and set aside.
  • Remove excess oil from the skillet and add 32 oz. of marinara sauce. The sauce will thicken and reduce during cooking so I recommend that you add about ¼+ cup water as well so that the sauce doesn’t get too thick. You can do this now or later as you judge the consistency. (The ricotta topping thickens it more as well.)
  • Add the meatballs to the skillet and spoon the sauce on top. Cook for 30 minutes over medium heat, partially covered. Use a small cookie scoop to dollop the remaining herb ricotta mixture on top and allow it to heat through during the last 15 minutes.
  • Garnish with parsley and serve.

Notes

Pro Tips
  • I use Rao's marinara sauce with this recipe, it's the best marinara sauce you'll ever try! Feel free to make this with my easy homemade marinara sauce as well.
  • Any combination of ground chuck, ground pork, ground sausage, and ground veal can be used in these meatballs.
  • Grate the Parmesan cheese from a wedge for best flavor and consistency, try to avoid using packaged grated cheese. I use Belgioioso Parmesan cheese.
  • Coating your hands in a little oil makes it easier to handle and roll out the meatballs.

Baking Method:
  • Method 1: Bake with sauce- Once the meatballs are browned, add ¾ of the marinara sauce to a 9x13-inch casserole dish. Add the meatballs and top with remaining sauce. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and add dabs of the remaining herb ricotta on top. Bake uncovered for 15 more minutes.
  • Method 2: Bake without sauce- Line a light 18 x 13 baking sheet with parchment paper or with a silicone baking sheet. If you don’t have either, you can lightly spray it with nonstick spray. Note that dark baking sheets attract more heat which could burn the bottom of the meatballs. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, the internal temperature needs to reach 160°.

Slow Cooker Method:
  • Assemble and brown the meatballs on the stove top as outlined in the recipe. Transfer to the Crock Pot and add the marinara sauce. Heat on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7.
  • Add the remaining ricotta mixture during the last 20 minutes or so, to allow it time to heat up.

Make-Ahead Method
  • Brown and Refrigerate: Assemble and brown the meatballs as outlined. Let them cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Add them to the sauce and give 10 additional minutes of simmering time.
  • Brown and Freeze: Assemble and brown the meatballs as outlined. Let them cool completely. Place on a baking sheet or plate and freeze for 1-2 hours. Remove and transfer to a gallon freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. They can be thawed in the fridge overnight or added to sauce from a frozen state until warm and cooked through.

Storage:
  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Nutritional info below is per serving. The number of servings are at the top of the recipe card in the middle. This recipe makes approximately 43 meatballs, nutritional info is per meatball and includes sauce and ricotta topping.

Nutrition

Calories: 89kcal, Carbohydrates: 3g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 22mg, Sodium: 223mg, Potassium: 143mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 204IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 50mg, Iron: 1mg

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18 comments on “Ricotta Meatballs (4 ways!)”

  1. I made these meatballs yesterday & they are delicious!  I left out the mustard powder but otherwise followed the recipe to the letter.  I will definitely make these again.

  2. I made these once and everyone loved them. I am making them again and was mixing the ricotta with spices and accidentally grabbed tarragon instead of oregano. Is it ruined?

  3. When using the slow cooker method, when do you add the rest of the ricotta mixture?

  4. Made this weekend for my daughter and family and they loved it! I used the baking method and the meatballs were so tender! Sadly, they’re all gone. I was hoping for leftovers💕

  5. Can I use all beef? I can’t wait to try this!!

  6. Do you serve this over anything ? Thanks!

  7. Would Rao’s arrabbiata sauce work in this recipe? It’s the only kind of Rao’s I could find that comes in a 32 oz. jar.

  8. I see you sautes the onion and garlic band then cool them do they in the sauce or the meatballs

  9. I decided to do a dry run of this Ricotta Meatballs recipe before I bring this dish to a large Super Bowl gathering this weekend. I love the step by step instructions on how to make the panade and the benefits it has to produce the most delicious and juiciest meatballs EVER!!! My family could not get enough of these; and there are no leftovers despite making quite the hefty batch! I am gonna go ahead and say they passed the family taste test with flying colors!!!! I love this simple twist on traditional meatballs and thank you so much for this wonderful recipe!!! Super Bowl banquet…here I come!!!

    • I love that you did a practice run for the super bowl Norma, I’ve done that with a lot of dishes before! Have fun watching the game and eating great food, thank so much for the awesome review!❤️

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