Say hello to our new favorite meatballs recipe: homestyle Italian ricotta meatballs! These are large (think baseballs, not golf balls) and are perfect as a hearty appetizer or a main meal. You can serve them the traditional way with pasta (who doesn’t love spaghetti and meatballs?!), but we really love them over creamy, cool ricotta cheese with marinara, grated Parm, and black pepper on top.
True Italian comfort food!
While there are many other meatball recipes on Well Seasoned — Lemon Oregano Chicken Meatballs, Sheet Pan Chicken Meatballs with Goat Cheese, Lamb Meatballs, and Thai turkey meatballs, just to name a few — these are the ultimate Italian classic, and you will never want beef meatballs any other way again!
They’ve got a crisp exterior, but are utterly tender and fall apart easily when you cut into them. We can’t wait for you to try our ricotta meatball recipe!
Ingredients For Ricotta Meatballs
- Ground beef: We are using 100% ground beef in this ricotta meatball recipe — no ground pork or ground veal.
- Traditional breadcrumbs: You can use seasoned breadcrumbs if you like (they tend to have herbs mixed in), but do not substitute with panko breadcrumbs. You’ll end up with a different texture.
- Parmigiano Reggiano: Gotta add some grated Parmesan cheese, which adds a salty, nutty flavor that we just adore.
- Ricotta cheese: Not only does ricotta have a beautiful, light taste, but it adds a creamy texture and moisture that cannot be matched.
- Egg yolks: Adds a richness and also helps to bind everything together.
- Dried oregano: This is a classic spice used to flavor meatballs! If you don’t have oregano, parsley works too!
- Chopped garlic: 3 cloves chopped garlic, or ~2 tablespoons
- Kosher salt: To season everything!
- ¼ cup each of water and extra virgin olive oil: These help to give the Italian meatballs a soft, tender texture!
You’ll also need a large bowl to mix the ingredients, a large cookie scoop (to portion the meatballs — this one is 5 ½ Tbsp), a rimmed baking sheet, and a sauce pot to simmer the meatballs in marinara sauce or tomato sauce of your choice.
Make The Ricotta Meatball Mixture
Let me say this upfront: do not over mix or over work the meatball mixture! You want everything to be thoroughly mixed together, but not so tightly mixed that the meatballs are dense. Instead, combine all ricotta meatball ingredients in a mixing bowl, then use your hands to gently combine until it looks evenly mixed.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, then grab an extra large cookie or muffin scoop to create heaping portions of meatballs. 1 ½ pounds of ground beef will yield 9-10 very large meatballs. Use kitchen gloves or slightly damp hands to roll out each meatball into a uniform shape. These are seriously huge!
Transfer the tray to an oven with the broiler preheated to high (yep, these meatballs get broiled first before taking a swim in some marinara sauce). You’ll broil them for 6-8 minutes (broil time varies greatly based on the intensity of the broiler, so keep an eye on them). While they’re getting a crispy exterior, heat up some marinara sauce).
We recommend Rao’s marinara, which is our favorite. It has the most wonderful basil flavor and a deep rich tomato taste. It’s the best! Carefully transfer the broiled meatballs to the sauce, then simmer for about 15 minutes, or until cooked through.
How To Serve Ricotta Meatballs
Well there’s the obvious choice: spaghetti and meatballs!
But we actually prefer to serve these Italian meatballs over some cool, creamy ricotta cheese with an extra spoonful of marinara sauce, a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, fresh basil, and lots of cracked black pepper (the way ricotta cheese and black pepper pair together is beyond!!).
These are large enough to be a meal in and of itself (with or without pasta), but you could certainly serve these as a fantastic appetizer to an Italian-themed dinner party. Would be so fabulous!
Can I Use This Recipe With Other Meats?
We have only ever tested it with 100% ground beef, but yes, you can certainly try with ground pork, ground veal, ground chicken, ground turkey, or Italian sausage.
Or feel free to mix and match! When we make meatloaf at home, it’s with a 2:1 ratio of ground beef to ground veal, and the flavor is amazing. I’d totally try that here!
How To Freeze Meatballs
Let me tell you this, there is nothing more freezer-friendly than meatballs, and these ricotta meatballs are no exception!
Instead of adding the cooked meatballs to the marinara sauce, allow them to cool completely to room temperature. If you have space in your freezer, place the entire baking sheet in there and let them freeze until solid, about 2 hours. Transfer the frozen meatballs to a freezer-bag or storage container. They’ll keep for up to 6 months.
If the prepared baking sheet won’t fit in the freezer, simply transfer them directly to a storage container for freezing. It seems like an unnecessary extra step, but food tends to freeze better when it’s not touching anything else.
Make a note on the meatballs that they are not fully cooked through! If you want, you can bake them in the oven after they broil until they reach an internal temperature of 145F. This way, when you go to reheat, they don’t need to simmer in sauce to fully cook.
We recommend the Thermapen MK4 to check for doneness on all meats!
To Reheat Meatballs From Frozen
You can let the ricotta meatballs thaw overnight in a fridge or you can heat the frozen meatballs in one of the following ways:
- In a microwave in 30 second intervals, turning the meatball over with each addition of time.
- Simmered from frozen in warm marinara or tomato sauce until heated throughout, about 30 minutes.
- In an oven on a baking sheet until warm throughout.
Remember: if you freeze the meatballs before cooking in marinara sauce, they will need to reach an internal temperature of 160F to be considered fully cooked.
Our absolute favorite way to reheat refrigerated meatballs (not frozen!) is to cut them in half, then crisp up in a skillet in a little neutral oil cut side down until they turn golden brown. Cook them about 1-2 minutes over medium heat, then use tongs to flip over and repeat on the other side. This gives the meatballs such a fantastic texture!
If you make these Ricotta Meatballs, please let us know by leaving a review and rating below!
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More meatball recipes to try
- Lemon Oregano Chicken Meatballs
- Greek Turkey Meatballs
- (Not Quite Kofta) Lamb Meatballs
- Thai Turkey Meatballs
- Sheet Pan Chicken Meatballs with Goat Cheese
Ricotta Meatballs Recipe
- 1 ½ lbs ground beef
- ¾ cup traditional breadcrumbs
- ½ cup ricotta cheese
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- 2 large egg yolks
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 3 tsp Kosher salt
- 2 ½ tsp dried oregano
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for serving
- Ricotta cheese for serving
- 32 oz Rao's marinara sauce or other sauce, for serving
- Freshly ground black pepper for serving
- Fresh basil leaves for serving
- Mix the meatball mixture. Combine 1 ½ lbs ground beef, ¾ cup breadcrumbs, ½ cup ricotta cheese, ⅓ cup grated Parmesan, 2 egg yolks, 3 chopped garlic cloves, 3 tsp Kosher salt, 2 ½ tsp dried oregano, ¼ cup water, and ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil in a mixing bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly mix everything together, being careful to stop when ingredients look evenly distributed.
- Preheat the broiler. Place a rack about 5-6" underneath the broiler, then preheat it on high.
- Form the ricotta meatballs. Using a large muffin or cookie scoop (about 5 ½ Tbsp per scoop), portion out the meatballs into heaping rounds. Place them on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet. Yields 9-10 large meatballs. Wear kitchen gloves or get hands slightly damp with water, then form each meatball into a uniform round shape.
- Broil the meatballs. Place the tray of meatballs directly under the broiler. Cook for 6-8 minutes, until the tops are crispy and a deep golden brown. Keep an eye on the meatballs, as broiler intensity varies greatly, and you may need to rotate the pan throughout cook time so the meatballs are evenly browned.
- While the meatballs are under the broiler, warm up the sauce. Pour a 32 oz container of marinara sauce in a large sauce pan or skillet with deep sides. Warm over medium to medium-high heat until simmering.
- Continue cooking the meatballs. Carefully transfer the meatballs to the warm marinara sauce. Cover and cook at a simmer until meatballs are fully cooked through, about 15 minutes, or until an internal temperature of 145F has been reached.
- Finish, then serve. If desired, spoon a little additional ricotta cheese on a plate, then scoop one meatball and some marinara sauce on top. Finish with additional grated Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, basil leaves, and some freshly cracked black pepper. Serve immediately! Alternatively, serve with your favorite pasta or spaghetti.
- Nutrition facts do not include marinara sauce, they are for meatballs only.
- To freeze meatballs: allow meatballs to cool completely from broiler, then freeze on a baking sheet until solid, about 2 hours. Transfer to a freezer-bag or storage container, then return to freezer. Will keep for 6 months. Store marinara sauce separately.