i love ricotta cheese and one day hope to try my hand at making it myself. until then, i’ll continue to buy store bought whenever a recipe calls for it. like for these delicious meatballs. yes, for a non-fan of balls of meat on my plate, i really loved them.
i wish i could say that i had a wonderful experience making them, but that would be a lie. it was hell. we’d recently moved back into our old apartment downtown (long story) and the smoke detector is directly across from the entrance of the shoebox sized kitchen. what i’d forgotten, from the first time we lived here, is that the smoke detector is super sensitive. i swear, if you looked at it the wrong way it would start screaming at you.
the recipe calls for baking the meatballs in the oven, so that’s what i
did tried to do. within 10 minutes of putting them in the oven the smoke detector was shrieking its head off at me. regardless of what i did, the stupid thing would not stop it’s assault. i tried fanning it with a tea towel, pressing the buttons on the front, covering it with the tea towel.
keep in mind that the meatballs had only been in the oven for 10 minutes – they were still raw, and definitely not burning. it seems that the smoke detector took exception to me having the oven on at such a high heat (450F). and let’s also discuss my fear of fire and the fact that i’ve been diagnosed with panic disorder. i was barely keeping myself together.
after about 10 minutes of this (but what felt like much longer), i heard a knock on the door. in a normal situation i’d be embarrassed but this wasn’t normal. i opened the door and saw the concerned look on my neighbour’s face and practically begged her to come in to help me. she stood on a stool whacking at the smoke detector with a wooden spoon while i set up the stand fan and faced it up at the wall. finally, the smoke detector shut.the.hell.up.
it was then that i fell apart. big fat tears rolled down my face as i sobbed and tried to thank her and apologise at the same time. bless her for keeping her composure, because i can only imagine how much of a nutter i looked like. needless to say, i sat down with a much needed glass of wine afterward to calm myself down while waiting for the boyfriend to come home.
her suggestion was to finish cooking the meatballs on the stove top and speak with our landlord about getting a replacement smoke detector. i did both. the meatballs were delicious and we are now the proud owners of a subtle, less sensitive, smoke detector that literally beeps while a woman’s calm voice calls out “there is a fire. there is a fire.”
so, i do recommend this recipe – but make sure your smoke detector isn’t an uptight cow before you turn the oven on. or do yourself a favour and cook them on the stovetop.
for the tomato sauce..(this makes 7 cups, so freeze the extra)
1/4 c olive oil
2 shallots, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp salt or to taste
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 28-ounce cans whole plum tomatoes, chopped with their liquid
heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. add the shallots, bay leaf, oregano, garlic, and salt and cook, stirring often, until the shallots are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
add the tomato paste and continue cooking for 5 minutes. add the tomatoes and stir constantly until the sauce begins to boil. lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring every 5 minutes or so to prevent the sauce on the bottom of the pot from burning. taste and season with additional salt, if desired. remove the bay leaf before serving.
for the meatballs (this makes 2 dozen 1 1/2 inch balls)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 lbs 80% lean ground beef
1 c ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 c bread crumbs
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground fennel
4 c tomato sauce
preheat the oven to 450°F. drizzle the olive oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. set aside.
combine the ground beef, ricotta, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, and fennel in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly. place the balls in the prepared baking dish, being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. the meatballs should be touching one another.
bake for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. a meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165°F.
while the meatballs are roasting, heat the tomato sauce in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often.
when the meatballs are firm and fully cooked, remove them from the oven and drain the excess grease from the pan. pour the tomato sauce over them. return the meatballs to the oven and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.
or, as i mentioned, cook them on the stove top in the tomato sauce following the same guideline for internal temperature.