Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cheesy Stuffed Jumbo Meatballs With Fresh Ricotta

Nothing says comfort food like jumbo sized, meaty Italian-style meatballs. These meatballs don't stop there though, oh no, not only are they stuffed with oozing mozzarella, but they are topped with fresh ricotta. Oh, and the best part is, they are unbelievably easy to make!

best meatball recipe jumbo meatballs stuffed meatballs with marinara
There's a new Italian place in town that my husband and I quickly deemed our favorite spot for a date night.
The entire menu is amazing, but the highlight is definitely the enormous sized meatball that is topped with house-made ricotta. We can't help but to order it every single time we go. 

meatball ricotta marinara cheese
So finally, I decided to replicate this massive piece of meaty goodness at home. I'm not quite sure what took me so long, because they are beyond delicious.
These meatballs turned out to be super easy and quicker than you'd think, especially if you prep them ahead and bake them just before dinner time.
meatballs with marinara homemade ricotta recipe
I know some of you will see the home-made ricotta and think NO WAY, but please, whatever you do, don't leave it out. There is really no substitute for fresh ricotta and it just so happens to be a cinch to make. I have an easy go-to recipe by Smitten Kitchen that turns out fantastic every time. Seriously, I want to bury my face in the's that good.

The simple marinara comes together while you are sipping a glass of wine the meatballs are in the oven. 
You will use about a half a loaf of ciabatta for the meatballs, so will absolutely need to toast up the other half to use as a vessel to soak up all of the sauciness going on in the bottom of your bowl.
Ok, let's get cookin'!
meatball marinara ricotta cheese

Cheesy Stuffed Jumbo Meatballs With Fresh Ricotta
Makes 8 jumbo meatballs

For the meatballs:
4 cups torn ciabatta loaf (I used half of a 1 lb loaf)
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2 lbs ground beef
1 Tbsp dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
8 mini mozzarella balls (bocconcini)
1/4 cup basil leaves, julienned 
Homemade Ricotta

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
Place the torn bread in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse several times until processed into course crumbs. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the milk, and set aside to soak for 10 minutes.
Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl, then add the ground beef, Italian seasoning, parmesan, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Mix with your hands until well blended. Split mixture into 4 equal portions in the bottom of the bowl. Divide each portion into 2 equal portions, thus making 8 equal sized portions. Shape each portion into a ball using your hands. Gently press one bocconcini into the center of each meatball. Re-roll to seal well.
Place meatballs on the prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until starting to brown on top.
Place meatballs in sauce and continue cooking for 5-10 minutes over low heat, spooning sauce on top of meatballs as they cook.
Serve meatballs with sauce and topped with basil and ricotta.

For the sauce:
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for one minute, until fragrant. Add crushed tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes until sauce is slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.


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