Ricotta balls in tomato sauce recipe is a wonderful vegetarian option when wanting 'meatless meatballs'. Using simple ingredients this recipe is originally a Calabrian classic recipe. Populated in particular in the Sila mountainous area (part of Calabria, southern Italy) by the peasant class of people. We love Italian food and in particular the type of food from Calabria hence our spice creation Calabrese Spice which is one of top performing products from inception!
How much do these look like meatballs?
I can't leave my husband alone at home because when I get back he will be making some kind of pasta or Italian sausages, Salami etc he will be making something that reminds him of Italy❤️
Here's What You'll Need
This is a simple recipe that takes very little time so collect all the ingredients before you start.
- Olive Oil
- Tomato sauce (as in Passata)
- Pecorino Romano
- Fresh basil
How To Make Ricotta Balls
The original recipe adds the ricotta balls directly into the sauce to cook but in this recipe we are oven baking them. You can do either, they both taste delicious! The other option is to fry them which is the perfect appetizer!
Start by adding the ingredients into a mixing bowl and use a fork to mix everything together.
Ricotta Ricotta is a fresh Italian cheese that's soft with a bit if a grainy texture. You can also find more information below under tips and suggestions on ricotta cheese and the draining of the ricotta and if it's necessary.
Breadcrumbs Regular breadcrumbs but making your own breadcrumbs from scratch there's simply no comparison. You get to add fresh or dried herbs, toast the breadcrumbs for texture and add loads of flavor.
Garlic The whole unpeeled garlic is sautéed in olive oil for fragrance and flavor. Once the garlic clove turns brown you can remove it and add the tomato passata. Use the garlic in another recipe or add it to your toast! Here's a delicious Avocado Caprese Salad on Toast that you can use for inspiration.
Olive Oil The most important thing as mentioned a few times throughout this recipe is that when the recipe has a few ingredients, use the best product quality to pull the flavors.
Tomato sauce (as in Passata) You can also use chopped cherry tomatoes or canned tomatoes if you like.
Parmigiano-Reggiano It's not the same as Parmesan cheese because of the taste, aging process and texture but yes you can definitely use Parmesan if you can't find Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Pecorino Romano Again with the aging of the cheese as in all things Italian it's not the same at all to Parmesan even though it may look the same. Parmesan though, I find is less salty and has less of a sharpness to it so taste and see which you prefer.
Pecorino = 100% sheep's milk and Parmesan = unpasteurized cows milk.
However you can substitute with either parmesan
- Pecorino Romano
- Cheddar Cheese
- Grana Padan
Parsley or fresh basil.
Rolling the Ricotta Cheeseballs
Once you have your ingredients mixed together, damp you hands a little and start making little cheese balls. They should be more or less the same size as regular homemade meatballs.
Place them on an oven tray that's been lined with a sheet of baking paper. This way, you have one less dirty pan! Use an ice cream scoop if you wan them the same size, weigh them if it bothers you that much as long as you get them into balls. We never use an ice-cream spoon or weigh ricotta cheeseballs because my husband would think I'm crazy 🙂 When I make my own Italian Meatballs Pasta Bake I do use an ice-cream scoop. I find they come out more or less the same size but we simply pick up the filling and roll in this recipe.
Brush With Oil
Oven baking I would suggest a brush of olive oil to keep the cheeseballs nice and moist. Obviously this step is not necessary if you're adding them into the sauce to cook.
Making The Sauce
I'm all about a slow cook sauce that can turn any meal around! All you need to do is take a look at this Tomato Meat Sauce to see how serious I get when I talk about meat sauce 🙂 However, this sauce recipe is your saving grace because it takes 15 minutes! And it comes with these quick ricotta balls that can quite literally cheat you into thinking you've just had real meatballs!
Passata di Pomodoro is the quickest tastiest choice that's why we use it. Again, buy a good Italian brand of passata however, canned and fresh tomatoes also make the same recipe just different taste.
The ricotta cheeseballs can also be served as an appetizer starter style meal.
Tips and Suggestions
Draining The Ricotta Cheese
Start by checking your ricotta is well drained if not drain the ricotta by leaving it in a strainer over a bowl for 30 minutes until most of the liquid has been released.
The ricotta can also be left overnight to drain depending on which one you buy. Most ricotta now comes with a draining tray on the inside, in which case it's already drained.
My suggestion would be to still leave it on a strainer over the bowl for a few minutes you'll see some access liquid in the bowl. Very little, discard it and use the cheese as per the recipe.
They store very well in the fridge for a day or 2 maximum.
Once the ricotta balls are made, as in mixed and rolled and they on the baking sheet you don't have to bake them immediately. You can leave them in the fridge for a few hours and cook them when you ready. I've only ever done this on the same day if you're wondering how long from making them to cooking them, so a couple of hours.
Left-over Ricotta Cheeseballs
Are the best! I keep them in the fridge overnight in a container, sealed. The next day bring them to room temp or for a quick blast, use the microwave. Heat a pan with a drizzle of olive oil, add more passata and the left-over meatballs to properly heat. For the love of cooking I add a drop of cream into the red sauce, re-season and enjoy! They are absolutely incredibly delicious!
More Italian Recipes
- Cheesy Oven Baked Meatballs in Sauce
- Lasagna Rigatoni Pasta Bake
- Cheesy Oven Baked Meatballs in Sauce
- Slow Cooked Short Rib Ragu (Oven)
- Homemade Lasagna
- Caprese Bruschetta
If you love this Ricotta Cheeseballs in Sauce recipe then take a look at my Cheesy Oven Baked Meatballs in Sauce.
Ricotta Cheeseballs in Sauce (Polpetta di Ricotta al Sugo)
- 380 ricotta cheese drained. See Note 1 below
- 100 grams breadcrumbs
- 50 grams Pecorino Romano
- 40 grams Parmigiana-Reggiano
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1 egg
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Heat the oven to 190 C. Line an oven tray with baking paper and set aside.
- Add the already drained ricotta to a large mixing bowl.
- Next in the same mixing bowl add the breadcrumbs to the ricotta.
- Add the crushed garlic and egg.
- Add the pecorino, parmigiana, parsley, salt and pepper and then use a fork to mix everything together.
- Make your hands damp and then take about a spoonful of the ricotta mix and roll it into balls. Place the balls onto a baking tray or dish that's lined with baking paper.This mix should make about 20 balls altogether so continue until all the mix is used.
- Use a pastry brush to brush olive oil over the cheeseballs. Be gentle as you oil the entire ball and place it back down on tray.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside to cook on a plate or rack.
- Heat the oil and garlic in non stick pan until hot and once the garlic has browned remove it from the heat. You can use the garlic for a another recipe, eat on toast!
- Add the passata, basil leaves salt and mix. Season with fresh black pepper and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. If necessary add a little water, more like ¼ cup not more and simmer on low to medium heat. If you like you can add a sprinkle of your favorite spice now.
- Add the oven baked ricotta balls, more fresh basil, taste for seasoning and enjoy!