Bring up the subject of meatballs and inevitably, you will find yourself in an argument about whose great-grandmother makes the best meatballs. Let me be clear, I’m not looking to throw down with anyone’s great-grandma by claiming that my meatballs are the best ever. That wouldn’t be wise. I will say, though, that these are some pretty darn good meatballs and they’re really easy to make. The oven basically does all the work. What happens to the crushed tomatoes after two hours in the oven is really quite remarkable. The long cooking time breaks everything down and condenses the flavor, to the point that you’re left with a sauce that has so much depth, while containing only 3 ingredients – salt, pepper and crushed tomatoes. These meatballs are great served with the sauce and some really good bread, over spaghetti or as I did, snuggled between crunchy, cheesy garlic bread. Don’t forget to share a few with your great-grandmother.
Beef and Ricotta Meatballs in Homemade Tomato Sauce
- 4 slices white bread, crusts removed, finely chopped into small bread crumb pieces (or pulse into a food processor)
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (80/20)
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 3 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
- Two 28-ounces cans of crushed tomatoes
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Place bread and milk in a bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl add beef, eggs, ricotta cheese, garlic, oregano, parsley, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper.
- Gently squeeze excess milk from bread and place bread into meat mixture. Discard remaining milk.
- Using a spatula (or your hands), gently fold and mix ingredients until well combined, but not over-mixed.
- Form into 16 equal size meatballs.
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a medium-size roasting pan with the vegetable oil. Place meatballs in pan and roast for 30 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from oven and add crushed tomatoes. Reduce oven heat to 325 degrees and roast for an additional 90 minutes to 2 hours, until meatballs are tender and tomatoes have cooked down into a thick sauce.
- Remove from oven, taste and adjust seasoning by adding salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar as needed.
- Serve meatballs over pasta, on bread or by themselves with the tomato sauce and garnished with Parmesan cheese.