Meatballs in Tomato Wine Sauce with Fresh Ricotta
I love meatballs in any form, and my family especially loves these beef-and-pork meatballs in tomato wine sauce with fresh ricotta. For me, the tomato sauce and fresh ricotta cheese are a perfect marriage. Ten years ago I found out just how easy ricotta is to make and I’ve not looked back since. I’ll never purchase store-bought again. I keep on a low carb diet for the most part, and I love meals like this where I can make the main components the same and sub out a low carb option for the starch. This type of dinner is pure love and comfort food.
For the ricotta:
- 946 ml (4 cups) whole milk
- 473 ml (2 cups) heavy cream
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) coarse salt
- 45 ml (3 tablespoons) white balsamic vinegar, Champagne vinegar, or other good white vinegar
For the meatballs:
- 454 grams (1 pound) 80/20 chuck or sirloin ground beef
- 454 grams (1 pound) ground pork
- 2 eggs
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) heavy cream
- 45 ml (3 tablespoons) chopped Italian parsley leaves
- 10 ml (2 teaspoons) Italian seasoning
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 small onion, finely diced and sauteed until softened/translucent
- 3 cloves garlic, finely grated
- 78 ml (1/3 cup) Parmesan cheese
- 78 ml (1/3 cup) panko bread crumbs
- Vegetable oil, for frying
For the sauce:
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic, finely grated
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 237 ml (1 cup) dry red wine
- 1.5 kilograms (56 ounces) canned Italian crushed tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
- Chiffonade of fresh basil leaves, for serving
- For the ricotta: In a heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium heat, bring the milk, cream, and salt to a slow boil. Stir in the vinegar, turn off the heat, and let it sit for a minute or so. Line a colander with a wet very thin tea towel or 2 layers of dampened cheese cloth and put in a large bowl. Pour the separated milk mixture into the colander. Drain off the liquid (whey) once so that the cheese mixture can strain until the desired consistency. Cover and refrigerate.
2. For the meatballs: Put the meats in a large bowl. In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs, heavy cream, parsley, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Add the egg mixture to the meat, and toss to mix lightly. Add the onions, garlic, cheese, and panko. Toss again to mix well. Roll into equal size balls, roughly 4 cm (1.5 inches) in diameter. In a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, add oil to cover the bottom. Working in batches, cook the meatballs until they are browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate or sheet pan and return the unwashed pan to medium-low heat.
3. For the sauce: Add the tomato paste to the unwashed pan, stir, add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and stir for another minute. Add the wine, being sure to scrape up the browned bits from the meatballs. Simmer for about 4-5 minutes so that the wine can reduce some, then add the crushed tomatoes and bay leaf.
4. Let the sauce come to a very gentle boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10 minutes and check the consistency. If it is too runny or the tomatoes are too big, use an immersion blender or the back of a spoon to break it up. Alternatively, transfer a portion of the sauce to a stand blender, process briefly, and add it back to the pan.
5. To finish and serve, add the meatballs to the sauce until heated and cooked through, 12-18 minutes. Serve over your favorite pasta, polenta, or make it low carb with zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. Finish with a dollop of ricotta, grated parmesan and a chiffonade of basil.