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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.

Be sure to try my Italian Sausage Pasta recipe next!

Ricotta Meatballs in a skillet with sauce, ricotta cheese, and a wooden spoon.

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 egg, 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 white plate with Ricotta Meatballs in marinara sauce.

 

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Ricotta Meatballs in tomato sauce with herb ricotta cheese and a wooden spoon.

Ricotta Meatballs

4.95 from 40 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 Mixture

  • 15 oz. Ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: dried basil, oregano, parsley

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 EACH: Italian seasoning, mustard powder, salt
  • ½ teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 lb. ground chuck, 80% lean
  • ½ lb. ground pork, or ground sausage or veal

Instructions

Stove Top Method (See notes for baking/crock pot methods)

  • Combine the Herb Ricotta mixture and set aside.
  • Heat 1 tbsp. 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 egg, 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 meat 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- Assemble and brown the meatballs on the stove top as outlined in the recipe. 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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142 comments on “Ricotta Meatballs (4 ways!)”

  1. I made the ricotta herb mixture and refrigerated it, but I forgot to mix in the meat, egg, breadcrumbs, and onion mix. Should all three mixes – the meat, egg/breadcrumbs, and herb ricotta – be combined together for the meatballs? I ended up with dollops of ricotta in the sauce, and my guests loved it anyway. I just want to make sure I’m following the recipe correctly.

    • Hi Indi! You take 3/4 cup of the Ricotta herb mixture and mix it in with the meatballs, (Step 3: “In a large bowl, combine the egg, half and half, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, Italian seasoning, mustard powder, and ¾ cup of the herb Ricotta mixture. Add the cooled onions/garlic.”) – The remaining ricotta mixture is added to the top of the dish prior to serving. 😊

  2. It’s really good, but it’s much easier to cook the meatballs in the oven and then do the remaining steps with the sauce/ricotta mixture 

  3. Could I use frozen meatballs for this? 

  4. Loved this. Made it tonight for a second time and we made extra ricotta mix and stuffed noodles with it

  5. I baked them on parchment without browning first because I didn’t want the extra fat or time or mess. Had the sauce in the skillet at the same time. Threw the meatballs in with the ricotta with 5 minutes to go. Absolutely fabulous! They will melt in your mouth! Served with garlic bread and salad. A keeper for sure!

  6. Do you think j can make this with ground turkey?

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