what can I make with leftover ricotta cheese?
SPICY RICOTTA BAKED MEATBALLS
Ricotta is one of those ingredients that I get for one recipe, and then it goes to die in my refrigerator. But why? Ricotta is so delicious! There’s no reason it shouldn’t be used in its entirety. So, in hopes to change my ways, I began brainstorming recipe ideas for ricotta. Thinking of Italian favorites, such as lasagna, Italian seemed like a delicious route to take. After a few test runs, I landed on these delicious small batch meatballs. But they aren’t just any meatballs. They’re spicy ricotta baked meatballs … a.k.a. the best small batch meatballs I’ve ever eaten.
This is a simple recipe. Two other ingredients that I typically buy for only one recipe (everything bagel seasoning), are dried/dehydrated minced onion and dried/dehydrated minced garlic. I wanted to give them both a new purpose, and decided that rehydrating them in soft, savory meatballs was the perfect plan.
what is in these spicy ricotta baked meatballs?
Glad you asked. Mostly basics, and a few fun twists:
- ground pork (or ground turkey)
- spicy Italian sausage (choose your favorite.)
- tomto paste
- dehydrated garlic flakes and dehydrated onion flakes
- dried oregano
- kosher salt + freshly cracked black pepper
- panko bread crumbs
- …and whole milk ricotta!
These are all typically pantry staples, which is perfect. Molasses is another one of those random ingredients that always needs a new place to land, right? It adds a touch of sweetness that is perfect for these meatballs. It doesn’t make them sweet by any means, but it balances the other flavors. I love using random orphaned ingredients and bringing them together to create something insanely delicious!
how should I bake meatballs?
My tried and true method for baking meatballs is as follows: Line a rimmed baking sheet with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Place the meatballs about 1″ apart onto the prepared baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. This applies to one ounce meatballs, which is my go-to size.
Placing a wire cooking rack onto the prepared baking sheet is also an option. The drippings from the meatballs will collect on the baking sheet, rather than on the bottoms of the meatballs. Either way works, and both ways are still delicious.
tips for mixing meatballs:
Gently mix the ingredients together. Over-mixing can cause the meatballs to become dense, which can make them tough. Light, tender meatballs is the goal!
Use your hands to mix the ingredients. You can feel everything coming together this way, and sense when it is time to stop mixing.
Whisk the egg before adding it to the meat, and sprinkle the seasonings across the meat. This helps both elements mix in a little easier!
This recipe makes exactly 15 meatballs, so it makes a perfect amount for two of us to have half of them with parmesan risotto or pasta tonight, then freeze the other half for leftovers. Each meatball is about 75 calories, so four meatballs would put you right at 300 calories for the protein portion of your dinner.
wine pairings for spicy ricotta baked meatballs:
:: Sangiovese. (Italy) >> If you’re covering these meatballs in marinara sauce and eating them with pasta, Sangiovese is your girl for a wine pairing. It’s probably the most famous grape from Tuscany, and it’s sooo good with food. Specifically Italian food, such as pasta and meatballs. Sangiovese is also super affordable, so grab a couple of bottles and save one for leftovers!
:: Carignan. (France) >> *one of my favorites!* Carignan tends to be fruit-forward and has good acidity, which makes it really awesome for food pairings. It can hold up to the spiciness in these meatballs, but the flavors complement the meatiness and the parmesan in them really well, too! If you’ve never tried Carignan, you really should. Then let me know what you think of it, because I’m such a fan! lol
:: Rioja. (Spain) >> Rioja is good with spicier meats, and the acidity makes it another awesome food pairing option.
small batch spicy ricotta baked meatballs
- 5 ounces ground pork or ground turkey
- 5 ounces spicy Italian sausage
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic or one teaspoon fresh minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon dehydrated minced onion
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan or grana padano cheese
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon molasses
- 1/3 cup whole milk ricotta
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. If preferred, place a wire cooking rack onto the baking sheet and spray with baking spray.
- Place the ground pork (or turkey), spicy sausage, and tomato paste into a large bowl. Sprinkle the garlic, onion, oregano, salt, pepper, parmesan, and panko bread crumbs over the meats.
- Whisk the egg in a separate small bowl, then add to the meats. Add molasses and ricotta, then gently mix with your hands until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Gently form one ounce balls, and place onto prepared baking sheet. Bake meatballs at 350 F for 20 minutes, until completely baked through.
- Remove from the oven, and toss with your favorite marinara sauce. Serve over cooked pasta or parmesan risotto!