Ricotta cheese balls with tomato sauce

Polpette di ricotta col sugo

With much advice in the news about climate change and eating less meat, here is a an interesting take on the famous Italian meatballs dish. This fantastic recipe comes from Calabria in southern Italy and is a tasty alternative to meat. Please note that this recipe is not vegetarian, due to the Parmesan cheese. If you want to make it for vegetarians then you will need to replace the Parmesan with something else. Depending on where you live, there are many readily available substitutes in most supermarkets.

Ingredients for the ricotta cheese balls:

Serves 4

  • 350g Ricotta cheese
  • 140g Rustic breadcrumbs
  • 100g Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 Medium eggs, beaten
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Spoonful of chopped parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Ingredients for the tomato sauce:

  • 750g Passata
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Sprig of basil
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method: To make the Ricotta Cheese Balls:

  1. Drain any liquid from the ricotta cheese

  2. Place the ricotta in a large bowl and mash thoroughly

  3. Add the breadcrumbs, crushed garlic clove and eggs, mix well with a fork

  4. Add the Parmesan cheese, parsley and black pepper, mixing well once more. The resulting mixture should be soft, but compact

  5. Lightly oil your hands and take around 1 heaped teaspoon of the mixture and form a ball. Continue until all the mixture is used up, you should have between 25 and 30 balls

  6. Set the balls aside in a cool place or in the fridge

Method: To make the Tomato Sauce:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan over a moderate heat

  2. Turn the heat to low and add the whole garlic clove. Cook slowly and let the garlic clove brown all over

  3. Add the sprig of basil and continue to cook until it just begins to break up

  4. Remove both the garlic clove and the sprig of garlic

  5. Add the Passata to the pan, stir well and turn up the heat to moderate. Keep stirring until the sauce is bubbling, and then turn back down to low

  6. Add some freshly ground black pepper, to taste, stir well and then carefully add the prepared ricotta cheese balls to the tomato sauce

  7. Place a lid on the pan and cook gently for around 15 minutes. Do not stir, but occasionally shake the pan gently to move the ricotta cheese balls around slightly

These ricotta cheese balls are very versatile and can be served with a variety of foods:

  • Serve with potatoes and freshly cooked vegetables
  • Eat them American style, served on top of a bowl of spaghetti
  • Eat them Italian style by having the sauce with spaghetti first, followed by the meatballs with vegetables
  • The ricotta cheeseballs, without the sauce, are also ideal for frying, making perfect finger food for parties