Best-Ever Meatballs: Italian-Style Ricotta Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce

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10+ years in the making, my Best-Ever Meatballs are perfect for a cozy Sunday supper or feeding a holiday crowd – classic Italian comfort food at its finest! These beef & pork meatballs are seriously rich & flavorful – thanks to a generous amount of fresh aromatics, like onions, garlic, & fresh basil – while ricotta cheese-soaked breadcrumbs give them the best light & meltingly tender texture. The ricotta meatballs bake, broil, & simmer in a simple, delicious tomato sauce, making them both golden-brown & perfectly tender all at once. Enjoy them over a bowl of fresh pasta, as a holiday appetizer, or tucked in a meatball sub, they're endlessly versatile & absolutely perfect every single time. The absolute best Italian meatball recipe!
Best-Ever Ricotta Meatballs simmer in a homemade simple red sauce in a cherry red Staub 13-inch Double Handle Fry Pan. The meatballs have been garnished with freshly chopped basil, parsley, and parmesan cheese and the fry pan sits atop a creamy white cement surface. A blue and white striped linen napkin has been placed underneath the fry pan. A small bouquet of fresh parsley in a wooden container and a small wooden pinch bowl filled with parmesan cheese sit atop the linen napkin, alongside of the fry pan.

Perfected Over 10+ Years, The Best Italian Meatball Recipe…Ever!

As one of the first things I ever taught myself to cook all the way back in college, meatballs hold a very special place in my heart. It’s a recipe I’ve tweaked & perfected over the past 10+ years & I’m so excited to finally share my Best-Ever Italian Meatball recipe with you!

If you ask me, serving someone a plate of spaghetti & homemade Italian meatballs is the ultimate expression of love. Coincidentally, I ended up marrying someone whose favorite food is meatballs (…or maybe it’s not so coincidental, you be the judge! *wink!*). Chris has enjoyed taste-testing these meatballs almost just as much as I’ve enjoyed tweaking this recipe over the years. In the past year or so, I finally got them to a spot where they’re just right on every level – flavor, texture, & ease. Chris agrees – they’re the absolute best Italian-style meatballs. 

A close up shot of Best-Ever Italian Meatballs in a homemade simple red sauce. The meatballs have been garnished with freshly chopped basil, parsley, and parmesan cheese.

What’s the secret to good meatballs?

My approach to preparing homemade meatballs has evolved quite a bit over the years, thanks in part to the influence of a few of my favorite chefs, like Anne Burrell, Tyler Florence, & Alison Roman. (Simply growing & improving as a cook since my college days doesn’t hurt either!)

There are a few small tweaks to ingredients & technique that make humble meatballs extra-special. This Italian meatball recipe uses a generous amount of fresh aromatics & ricotta-soaked breadcrumbs to create the best texture – seriously light & melt-in-your-mouth tender. The meatballs bake, broil, & finish with a quick simmer in my go-to simple tomato sauce, resulting in perfectly juicy meatballs that taste super-rich yet incredibly fresh & full-flavored all at once. It’s kind of crazy how good they are!

Needless to say, I’m really excited to finally publish this recipe here on PWWB. To add to the fun, we’re sharing it in partnership with our friends at Staub! When it comes to preparing & serving a beautiful family-style dish like these ricotta meatballs, my go-to cookware is my Staub 13-inch Double-Handle Fry Pan. It’s the perfect size for prepping a recipe that feeds a crowd and its large surface area also reminds me of a plancha or griddle! Plus, like all of Staub’s gorgeous cookware, it transitions from the kitchen to the table beautifully. (Less dishes to wash for the win!)

Best-Ever Italian Meatballs simmer in a homemade simple red sauce in a cherry red Staub 13-inch Double Handle Fry Pan. The meatballs have been garnished with freshly chopped basil, parsley, and parmesan cheese and the fry pan sits atop a creamy white cement surface. A blue and white striped linen napkin has been placed underneath the fry pan. A small bouquet of fresh parsley in a wooden container and a small wooden pinch bowl filled with parmesan cheese sit alongside of the fry pan.

Best-Ever Italian Meatball Recipe Highlights

You are going to LOVE these ricotta meatballs because they are…

  • LIGHT & TENDER. Too often meatballs come out dry & tough…but not here. My Italian meatball recipe creates juicy, airy, melt-in-your-mouth tender meatballs thanks to a combination of smart ingredients & proper preparation.
  • SERIOUSLY VERSATILE. Perfect on their own, over pasta, in a meatball sub, or as an appetizer – there are so many ways to eat ricotta meatballs at any meal, any day of the week. This Italian meatball recipe is even special enough for holiday dinners!
  • CLASSIC ITALIAN COMFORT FOOD. Italian meatballs are one of those foods that I always crave. The rich flavors of fresh tomato sauce, savory cheese, & tender meatballs are one of the most iconic comfort foods of all time. A total classic!

These ricotta meatballs are the only Italian meatballs recipe you’ll ever need! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make PWWB’s Best-Ever Italian Meatballs, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!

Key Ingredients for the Best Italian Meatballs

Like most Italian classics, this ricotta meatball recipe begins with a handful of simple, high-quality ingredients – it’s really all about using the best quality you can find! With a little TLC, even the humblest ingredients transform into the best meatballs ever.

Best-Ever Ricotta Meatballs ingredients arranged on a creamy cement surface - ground beef and pork atop a sheet of crinkled wax paper, olive oil, yellow onion, garlic, whole milk ricotta, panko breadcrumbs, eggs, grated parmesan, fresh parsley, fresh basil, Italian seasoning.

Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

Here’s what you need…

  • Ground pork & ground beef – There’s a ton of debate over what is the best meat for meatballs. I opt for a mix of ground pork & ground beef, which results in beautiful, richly flavored meatballs. Many traditional Italian meatball recipes also call for ground veal, which is a great add-in if it’s readily available to you.
  • Ricotta cheese – The secret ingredient! Ricotta cheese replaces the milk used in traditional Italian meatball recipes to create seriously light & tender meatballs.
  • Panko breadcrumbs – Panko breadcrumbs are great for meatballs thanks to their light, airy texture. If you have fresh, homemade breadcrumbs on hand, feel free to use them instead!
  • Eggs – You need to add eggs to meatballs to help all of the ingredients bind together. A binder (like eggs) creates a classic ball shape & helps everything hold together while they cook. Without it, your ricotta meatballs are more likely to crumble & fall-apart – no good!
  • Parmesan – For next-level flavor, use Parmigiano Reggiano! Crafted to a strict set of standards in a very specific region in Northeast Italy, Parmigiano Reggiano is uniquely savory, with complex nutty flavor.
  • Aromatics – Namely onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, parsley, & fresh basil. While the rest are pretty common add-ins, the addition of a generous amount of fresh basil takes everything to another level. They’re seriously rich & full-flavored, but they also burst with freshness – it’s kind of mind-boggling, & so, so good!
Ingredient Spotlight

What is Ricotta Cheese?

Whole milk ricotta is a soft, super creamy whey cheese that just so happens to be the secret to making the best Italian-style meatballs! 

While most traditional Italian meatball recipes soak breadcrumbs in milk to add moisture & bind all of the ingredients together (this mixture is called panade), I like to swap regular milk for whole milk ricotta cheese. I’m pretty confident you’ll notice the difference right away – ricotta meatballs are seriously light & meltingly tender.

You can find ricotta cheese at most conventional grocery stores these days. It’s most often stocked in the refrigerator section near other soft cheeses like cream cheese or mascarpone. Be sure to grab whole milk ricotta for the best Italian meatballs!

How to Make Homemade Ricotta Meatballs

Learning how to make Italian meatballs is one of those skills that will stick with you for life. While there are a couple of moving parts, the process is pretty straight-forward – you’ll get the hang of it quickly!

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

1

Prepare the panade. Much like how traditional Italian meatball recipes call for soaking breadcrumbs in milk, these ricotta meatballs start by mixing together panko breadcrumbs & whole milk ricotta. The breadcrumbs should soak in the ricotta for about 10 minutes. Why? ⇢ Ricotta’s extra-soft & creamy texture creates deliciously light & meltingly tender Italian meatballs.

2

Soften the aromatics. As the breadcrumbs soak, cook the onion & garlic in a little bit of olive oil until softened & fragrant. Why? ⇢ Rather than adding them to the meatballs raw, this quick step brings out the aromatic flavor of the onion & garlic. As a bonus, it also prevents the dreaded moment of biting into a large piece of solid onion in a tender meatball (that’s the worst!).

3

Mix the meatballs. Mix the softened aromatics, eggs, grated parmesan, & fresh herbs into the ricotta-soaked breadcrumb mixture. Add the beef & pork last, carefully mixing with your hands just until everything comes together, but no longer. Why? ⇢ Overmixing compacts the meat, resulting in tough, chewy Italian meatballs – the opposite of what we’re going for here! To prevent this from happening, mix all of the other ingredients first, which limits the amount you need to handle & mix the meat.

4

Form the meatballs into 2-inch meatballs, a little larger than the size of a golf ball. Lightly roll the formed ricotta meatballs in your palm to smooth them out a little. Again, treat them without pressing down on them or working them too much – doing so destroys the light, airy texture we’re after! Tip ⇢ Cookie scoops aren’t just for cookies! A spring-loaded scoop really comes in handy when you make Italian meatballs – it helps create uniform meatballs & limits how much you need to handle the meat.

5

Bake-Broil-Simmer! These ricotta meatballs cook in 3 different phases to achieve the ultimate melt-in-your-mouth texture. Bake to cook them most of the way through, broil to create a beautiful golden brown crust, then finish with a quick simmer in a simple tomato sauce – more detail on this in a sec! Why? ⇢ While some swear by pan-frying, I find pan-fried meatballs much tougher than baked Italian meatballs, without much of a payoff in flavor. I’m a firm believer in baked Italian meatballs finished under the broiler. In my experience, baked Italian meatballs cook more evenly & stay super tender, while the broiler adds a golden brown finish similar to pan-fried meatballs.

A side angle shot of Best-Ever Italian Meatballs inside of a homemade simple red sauce in a cherry red Staub 13-inch Double Handle Fry Pan. The meatballs have been garnished with freshly chopped basil, parsley, and parmesan cheese and the fry pan sits atop a creamy white cement surface. A blue and white striped linen napkin has been placed underneath the fry pan. A small bouquet of fresh parsley in a wooden container and a small wooden pinch bowl filled with parmesan cheese sit alongside of the fry pan. A gold spoon rests inside of the pan lifting up a single meatball.

The Perfect Meatball Sauce: Simple Tomato Sauce

The final touch in this Italian meatball recipe is my perfect, simple tomato sauce. This sauce has a few smart, flavor-packed ingredients like white wine, fire-roasted tomatoes, & plenty of aromatics that make it taste like it’s simmered for hours…except it comes together in 40 minutes or less! It’s perfect to prep alongside the ricotta meatballs so you can serve everything together.

To prepare the sauce, grab your Staub 13-inch Fry Pan & soften some onions & garlic to create a base of rich flavor for the tomato sauce. Once it’s rendered & browned, add in a little tomato paste & deglaze the pan with white wine, scraping up all of those delicious browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Once the wine reduces a bit, add the tomatoes. I always use fire-roasted tomatoes for the best flavor, & a combination of crushed & diced creates really nice texture. Simmer the sauce for about 25 minutes, giving the flavors the chance to meld together as it simmers.

Once the ricotta meatballs are baked & broiled, the last step is to finish cooking them in the sauce. I love this step – it’s a total game changer! Not only does this help make them extra-tender, but cooking meatballs in tomato sauce sauce adds even more rich flavor as everything simmers. Add grated parmesan, fresh parsley & basil to finish off the sauce in the last 5 minutes of simmering. Then it’s time to enjoy the best Italian meatball recipe ever!

A side angle shot of Best-Ever Italian Meatballs inside of a homemade simple red sauce in a cherry red Staub 13-inch Double Handle Fry Pan. The meatballs have been garnished with freshly chopped basil, parsley, and parmesan cheese and the fry pan sits atop a creamy white cement surface. A blue and white striped linen napkin has been placed underneath the fry pan. A few loose fresh parsley leaves rest alongside of the fry pan and a gold spoon rests inside of the pan lifting up a single meatball.

How to Serve Ricotta Meatballs

Here’s the deal – there’s no wrong way to eat these meatballs. That’s one of the reasons why this is the absolute best Italian meatball recipe – they’re super versatile!

Some of my favorite ways to serve ricotta meatballs include…

  • Spaghetti & Meatballs 2.0 – Spaghetti & meatballs are the perfect pair…especially when you swap out spaghetti with bucatini, a tubular long pasta with the best chewy texture. Serve them together on a bed of ricotta for the easiest, tastiest twist on classic spaghetti & meatballs!
  • as an Italian meatball appetizer – Serve the ricotta meatballs in the simple tomato sauce as a dinner party appetizer to start things off on a delicious note. You could pair them with a little crostini or polenta cake, or just serve them on their own…sometimes things are perfect all on their own!
  • Italian meatball sub – Tuck your ricotta meatballs into a fresh sub roll or toasty brioche bun, then finish with some extra sauce & grated parmesan for a cozy, hearty sandwich. Easy enough for lunch & hearty enough for dinner!
A serving of three Italian Ricotta Meatballs atop bucatini pasta tossed in a simple tomato sauce in a grey speckled ceramic bowl lined with a bed of whole milk ricotta cheese sits atop a creamy white cement surface. The bowl sits atop a blue and white striped linen napkin with a silver fork and spoon resting next to the bowl. A small bouquet of fresh parsley, a small wooden pinch bowl filled with parmesan cheese, and a glass of red wine surrounds the bowl.

Other Homemade Italian Meatballs FAQs

What is the best meat for meatballs?

I like using a blend of ground beef & ground pork for these ricotta meatballs. The combination of these 2 types of meat creates the best rich, rounded flavor. Plus, they’re both readily available at most conventional grocery stores. If you like to make meatballs with ground veal, feel free to use it in this recipe – see the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance! 

Are panko breadcrumbs good for meatballs?

Totally! The light & airy texture of panko breadcrumbs give meatballs a crave-worthy tender texture – especially when you soak them with ricotta cheese!

What keeps meatballs from falling apart?

Binding ingredients with a lot of moisture hold together all the delicious components of Italian meatballs. In this recipe, eggs & ricotta soaked bread crumbs are the two important binders that give the meatballs their shape.

Do you need to add egg to meatballs?

Yes! Eggs are the binder that helps hold the meatballs together so they stay in a classic round shape. Without eggs, Italian meatballs are more likely to crumble & fall apart as they cook.

Is it better to fry or bake Italian meatballs?

There’s lots of debate on the best way to cook meatballs – especially when it comes to pan-frying vs. baking. In my experience, baked Italian meatballs are the absolute best for meltingly tender, flavorful meatballs. It’s much, much easier to end up with tough, dried-out meatballs when you pan-fry them. 

Can I make these ricotta meatballs ahead of time?

Yes! There are a few different make-ahead approaches you can take with this ricotta meatball recipe. Since leftovers keep beautifully, you can prepare the entire recipe in advance. Or, just prep & form the meatballs ahead of time. When it’s time to cook, all you have to do is pop the ricotta meatballs into the oven. Refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for more make-ahead guidance.

Can I freeze ricotta meatballs?

Absolutely! It’s one of the reasons I adore this recipe so much! These Italian meatballs freeze beautifully, perfect for when you are in need a quick & satisfying meal. Thaw the meatballs in the refrigerator overnight for best results & easily reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop. Refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for full freezer instructions.

A side angle shot of a serving of three Italian Ricotta Meatballs served atop bucatini pasta tossed in a simple tomato sauce and served in a grey speckled ceramic bowl lined with a bed of whole milk ricotta cheese. The bowl rests atop a creamy white cement surface with a blue and white striped linen napkin placed underneath. A silver fork and spoon rests next to the bowl & a small bouquet of fresh parsley, a small wooden pinch bowl filled with parmesan cheese, and a glass of red wine surround the bowl.

I can’t wait for you to try PWWB’s Best-Ever Ricotta Meatballs! If you do give them a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!

Craving classic Italian comfort food? 🙌🏼 That’s our passion here at PWWB! Be sure to try my Best-Ever Bolognese, All-Time Favorite Chicken Cacciatore, or this Italian Chicken & Gnocchi Dumplings next & let us know what you think!

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An overhead shot of a serving of three Italian Ricotta Meatballs served atop bucatini pasta tossed in a simple tomato sauce and served in a grey speckled ceramic bowl lined with a bed of whole milk ricotta cheese. The bowl rests atop a creamy white cement surface with a blue and white striped linen napkin placed underneath. A silver fork and spoon rests next to the bowl & a small bouquet of fresh parsley surround the bowl.

Best-Ever Meatballs: Italian-Style Ricotta Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 60 minutes
  • Yield: serves 6-8 1x
  • Category: Pasta Recipes, Main Dishes
  • Method: Baked, Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian, American

Description

These Italian-style meatballs are seriously rich & flavorful thanks to the perfect combination of ground beef + pork & a generous amount of fresh aromatics, like onion, garlic, & fresh basil. Soaking the breadcrumbs in ricotta cheese creates the best light & meltingly tender texture. The ricotta meatballs bake, broil, & simmer in a simple, delicious tomato sauce, making them both golden-brown & perfectly tender all at once.

Enjoy them over a bowl of fresh pasta, as a holiday appetizer, or tucked in a meatball sub, these ricotta meatballs are endlessly versatile & absolutely perfect every single time. An instant classic! 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3/4 pound 85%-90% lean ground beef (see Recipe Notes)
  • 3/4 pound ground pork (see Recipe Notes)
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 6 ounces whole milk ricotta (approx. 3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 ounces finely grated parmesan (approx. 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • optional: up to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
  • for serving, as desired: simple tomato sauce (below), grated parmesan, chopped fresh parsley or basil, crushed red pepper flakes, pasta as desired, etc.

for the simple tomato sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, as needed
  • 1/2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • optional: up to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (one) 28-ounce can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 (one) 14-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

Instructions

  1. Prep: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, ensuring a rack is positioned in the top 1/3 of the oven, about 8 inches under the broiler. Line a large baking sheet with foil for easy clean up as desired. Spray the prepared baking sheet generously with nonstick cooking spray. Gather & prep all ingredients according to the Ingredients List, above.Best-Ever Ricotta Meatballs ingredients arranged on a creamy cement surface - ground beef and pork atop a sheet of crinkled wax paper, olive oil, yellow onion, garlic, whole milk ricotta, panko breadcrumbs, eggs, grated parmesan, fresh parsley, fresh basil, Italian seasoning.
  2. Soften onion & garlic for the meatballs: Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, add in the yellow onion. Season with a pinch of salt & ground black pepper as desired. Stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened & fragrant, 5-6 minutes. Add in the garlic & cook 1-2 minutes longer, until fragrant. Transfer softened onion & garlic to a bowl & set aside. Remove the skillet from the heat.Chopped yellow onion and garlic softens in olive oil inside of a cherry red 13-inch Staub Double Handle Fry Pan. The fry pan sits atop a creamy white cement surface with a wooden spoon resting inside of the pan for mixing.
  3. Soak the breadcrumbs: Meanwhile, as the onion & garlic cook, soak the breadcrumbs. Add the ricotta & panko breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine well. Set aside to soak for 10 minutes.A mixture of panko breadcrumbs and whole milk ricotta cheese are stirred together and rest inside of a large glass mixing bowl. A wooden spatula with a white rubber head rest inside of the bowl used for mixing.
  4. Cook aromatics for the simple tomato sauce: Meanwhile, as the breadcrumbs soak, begin cooking the simple tomato sauce. Return the skillet used to soften the onion & garlic for the meatballs in Step 2 over medium heat. If needed, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, add the yellow onions. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired, & stir to combine. If anything begins to brown too quickly, reduce heat to medium or medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5-6 minutes, until softened & fragrant.Pancetta and yellow onions render and soften inside of a cherry red Staub 13-inch Double Handle Fry Pan. A wooden spoon rests inside of the fry pan and the fry pan sits atop a creamy white cement surface.
  5. Build & simmer the tomato sauce: Stir the garlic & crushed red pepper flake (if using) into the skillet, cooking until just fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir the tomato paste into the skillet. As it heats, stir to coat the veggies. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until deeply red. Deglaze the skillet with the white wine, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that have formed at the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high. Once the wine reduces by half, add in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, & water. Stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low, maintaining a gentle simmer. Simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. If needed, cover to prevent splattering.A simple tomato sauce simmers in a cherry red Staub 13-inch Double Handle Fry Pan. The fry pan rests atop a creamy white cement surface.
  6. Mix the meatballs: Meanwhile, as the sauce simmers, continue prepping the meatballs. To the large mixing bowl with the soaked breadcrumb mixture from Step 3, add the softened onion & garlic from Step 2, eggs, grated parmesan, chopped fresh parsley, chopped fresh basil, Italian seasoning, & crushed red pepper flakes (if using) to a large mixing bowl. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt & ground black pepper, as desired. Use your hands to mix well. Once the breadcrumb mixture is combined, add in the ground pork & ground beef. Using your hands, mix just until combined – take care to avoid over-mixing.A large glass mixing bowl filled with mixed ground beef, ground pork, and a seasoned ricotta panko breadcrumb mixture sits atop a creamy white cement surface.
  7. Form the meatballs: Gently form the mixture into meatballs slightly larger than the size of a golf ball, rolling just until smooth – take care to avoid pressing the meatballs together too compactly. For quickness & ease, I like using a 2-inch spring-loaded scoop. The mixture will yield 16-18 2-inch meatballs. Arrange the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet. 18 uncooked golf ball sized meatballs are arranged atop an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. The baking sheet rests atop a creamy white cement surface.
  8. Bake the meatballs: Transfer the meatballs to the oven & bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn on the oven’s broiler & broil for an additional 5-8 minutes, until a golden brown crust forms on the meatballs. Check them every so often as they broil, rotating the sheet pan as needed to broil evenly.18 baked golf ball sized meatballs are arranged atop an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. The baking sheet rests atop a creamy white cement surface. A blue and white striped linen napkin rests alongside the baking sheet.
  9. Simmer the meatballs: Once baked & broiled, add the meatballs to the skillet with the sauce, carefully stirring to coat. Simmer 10 minutes, carefully stirring occasionally. Finish the sauce by carefully stirring in the grated parmesan, parsley, & basil. Simmer 5 minutes more, just to combine.Best-Ever Ricotta Meatballs simmer in a homemade simple red sauce in a cherry red Staub 13-inch Double Handle Fry Pan. The meatballs have been garnished with freshly chopped basil and parsley and the fry pan sits atop a creamy white cement surface.
  10. Serve the meatballs: Serve the meatballs immediately as desired, with pasta or in a meatball sub, etc. Enjoy!Two servings of three Italian Ricotta Meatballs served atop bucatini pasta tossed in a simple tomato sauce and served in a grey speckled ceramic bowls lined with a bed of whole milk ricotta cheese. The bowls sit atop a creamy white cement surface and each bowl sits atop a blue and white striped linen napkin. A silver fork and spoon rest next to one of the bowls. A small bouquet of fresh parsley, a small wooden pinch bowl filled with parmesan cheese, and two glasses of red wine surround the two bowls.


Notes

  • Best meat for meatballs: Many traditional meatball recipes call for use of ground veal. While I love the flavor of veal, the combination of ground beef & ground pork is most often available at the grocery stores I frequent. That’s what I opt to use. However, many grocery stores & butcher shops sell a pre-mixed 1:1:1 combination of ground beef, ground pork, & ground veal as a “meatball mix” or “meatloaf mix”. If you can find it at your grocery store, feel free to go ahead & use it in this recipe!
  • Storage & Freezing Instructions:
    • Storage & Reheating: These meatballs store very well – the simple tomato sauce gets even more flavorful as it sits & the flavors continue to develop & marry! Simply transfer the cooled meatballs & tomato sauce to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through, adding a splash of water or chicken stock as needed to loosen up the tomato sauce. 
    • Freezer Instructions: These meatballs are also incredibly freezer-friendly. To freeze, transfer the cooled meatballs & tomato sauce to a freezer container or divide between multiple freezer containers for smaller portions. Freeze up to 3 months. To thaw, place the frozen meatballs in the refrigerator overnight. Easily reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through, adding a splash of water or chicken stock as needed to loosen up the tomato sauce. 
  • 20-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for these meatballs comes from prepping the veggies & forming the meatballs. Take care of some of this in advance & you can jump straight in to cooking during the week:
    • Veggie prep: Dice 2 medium yellow onions & finely chop 12 cloves of garlic. Transfer to individual airtight containers & store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (10 minutes active)
    • Mix & form the meatballs according to Step 2-3, 6-7 of Recipe Directions, above. You can roll out the meatballs immediately or save the rolling for dinnertime; either way, the mixture will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (about 20 minutes active)

Keywords: Italian meatballs, ricotta meatballs, Italian meatball recipe, Italian comfort food, spaghetti & meatballs, best, easy, classic, traditional

Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.

An overhead shot of a serving of three Italian Ricotta Meatballs served atop bucatini pasta tossed in a simple tomato sauce and served in a grey speckled ceramic bowl lined with a bed of whole milk ricotta cheese. The bowl rests atop a creamy white cement surface with a blue and white striped linen napkin placed underneath. A small bouquet of fresh parsley surrounds the bowl.

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Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 5.28.22
    Debra aufiero said:

    I am making the meatballs for a party. Of course my husband and I had to sample some, they are delicious. I used organic meat ( beef n turkey) and the beef sometimes can be gamey, so I actually doubled the amount of ricotta. Baking the meatballs is the way to go. Thanks debra

    • 5.30.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Thanks so much, Debra! So glad to hear that you enjoyed & couldn’t agree more about baking the meatballs – it truly is the way to go! 🙂

  2. 3.3.22
    Kimberley said:

    These were delicious! I made them a month ago and froze them and just heated them up for dinner tonight. They will absolutely be my go to meatball recipe now

  3. 1.25.22
    Rachel said:

    I made this recipe for my in-laws over the holidays and it was a huge hit! I then sent the recipe to my family and my whole family said that these were some of the best meatballs that they had ever made.

    You can’t go wrong with this recipe. I recently made a large batch and froze these so that I have delicious meatballs on hand whenever I need a quick meal.

  4. 1.2.22
    Allyson said:

    Delicious ! Made these meatballs and made sliders with them using Hawaiian Sweet Rolls..perfect with the leftover soup we had. I was lazy so I used a jar of Rao’s Marinara Sauce. Will make pasta for the leftover meatballs & sauce.
    This is a “will make again” recipe 👌

    • 1.4.22

      So glad you enjoyed – meatball sliders on Hawaiian rolls sounds like PERFECTION. Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback! xx

  5. 12.31.21
    Kylie said:

    These meatballs felt like a labor of love. They were so worth it!! So flavorful, so good! I served them with a side gnocchi. Delicious!

  6. 12.26.21
    Jennifer said:

    These meatballs are incredible! I normally make meatballs the way my mother taught me (she is born of/from Italy) and I honestly love this recipe more. They have amazing flavor, hold together nicely and don’t dry out. The sauce is great as well. Thank you so much for a wonderful recipe!

    • 12.30.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Jennifer! Thanks so much for leaving a comment & for your review! We are so thrilled to hear that you loved these meatballs as much as we do!!

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A side angle shot of pasta tossed in San Marzano tomato sauce that is plated on a creamy white speckled plate. The pasta has been garnished with parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil. The plate sits atop a creamy white surface with a light blue linen napkin tucked underneath the plate. A set of silverware rests alongside the plate and a few loose basil leaves and a small wooden pinch bowl filled with parmesan cheese rest just above the plate.