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A few years ago, I had dinner in Atlanta at a restaurant called The Floataway Cafe.  While dining there, I had veal and ricotta meatballs for the first time. I’ve never been one to crave meatballs, but these were a whole new experience: they were light, flavorful but delicate and utterly delicious. Since that night I’ve been haunted with the memory of these beauties, so I finally got my act together to try my hand at making veal & ricotta meatballs.

The recipe for these meatballs comes from Chef Marco Canora and appears to be widely used by the denizens of the interwebs. Having now made them, I can see why. They are fantastic. So bravo Chef Canora. I love your veal & ricotta meatballs and give you full credit for the lovely recipe.

However, the tomato sauce is all mine. And, if I do say so myself, it pairs very nicely with the meatballs. I included some pureed peppers and whatnot to boost the veg/nutritional content of the sauce, and the hint of cinnamon and nutmeg really highlight the flavor of the the meatballs. My neighbors taste tested this recipe for me, and it was met with enthusiastic approval by all. Well, by parents and the 6 year old. The 4 year old flat out refused to try it, but that’s okay. I wouldn’t eat meatloaf until I was an adult and still won’t eat square hamburgers, so I get where he’s coming from.

Okay, so a few notes before we get to the recipe. The recipe is not super complex, but is a bit of a lengthy process, as the ricotta has to drain overnight and there is a bunch of cooling/simmering time involved. So it’s not a quick, throw it together kind of affair. However, if you have the time to make this recipe, you will bring smiles to all those who consume it, which, of course, is the whole point.

 

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Meatballs
16 oz Ground Veal
16 oz Ricotta Cheese
1 C Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
2 Eggs, Large
1 Tbsp Salt, plus more as needed
1/4 tsp Nutmeg, freshly ground, plus more as needed
1/4 tsp Black Pepper, freshly ground, plus more as needed
Vegetable Oil – enough to fill a pan 1 1/2 inches deep for frying
Flour – for flouring a baking sheet hands

Sauce
1 box Pomi strained tomato sauce (approx 26 oz)
1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes (approx 26 oz)
1 C Bell Peppers, minced (red, orange, yellow)
1/2 C Onion, diced
1 Tbsp Garlic, diced
1 Tbsp Olive Oil, for sauteing
Salt & Pepper, as needed
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
Pinch of Nutmeg
1 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Thyme, fresh
1/3 C Red Wine
Parmesan Cheese, freshly shredded, for serving
Basil, fresh, for serving

 

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The night before:

Drain the ricotta by wrapping it in cheese cloth, setting it in a mesh strainer set over a bowl. Cover the ricotta with a small plate and set something heavy on the plate to press down on the ricotta. Place in the refrigerator to drain overnight.

 

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The day of:

Combine the veal, ricotta, eggs, cheese, salt, nutmeg and pepper in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands until nice and homogenous.

 

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Test the seasoning by dropping a small piece in boiling water to cook it. Adjust seasoning as needed, then cover and chill for approximately one hour.

 

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Once the mixture is thoroughly chilled, dust a parchment-lined baking sheet with flour. Coat your hands with flour and shape the meat into balls, setting them on the baking sheet. Lightly flour the tops of the meatballs, cover with plastic and chill for another hour.

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 While the meat balls are chilling, saute the onion, peppers and garlic in olive oil, with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. When they have softened, remove them to a small food processor or blender. Let cool, briefly, then blend until smooth.

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 Pour the tomato sauces in the pan recently vacated by peppers et al and stir in the pureed peppers, sugar, thyme, nutmeg, cinnamon and thyme. Add salt and pepper, as needed, also adjusting the other spices, as necessary. Bring to a simmer.

 

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Pour the vegetable oil in a frying pan so that the oil is about 1 1/2 inches deep and begin to heat it. When the oil is hot and the meat balls chilled, fry them in the oil in batches – about 4 minutes per batch, turning the meatballs about half way through so that they are evenly cooked and browned. (well, they turn kind of off-white rather than brown…) You may have to loosen the bottom of the meatballs from the pan when you turn them over.

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As the meat balls finish cooking, transfer them to the sauce to simmer.

 

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Pour off the oil from the frying pan and return it to heat. Deglaze the pan with the wine and reduce by about half. Stir the reduction into the sauce and let the sauce simmer for at least 30 minutes.

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Serve with parmesan cheese and fresh basil. If you’re in the mood for a really big meal, serve over pasta.

 

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Veal & Ricotta Meatballs
 
Recipe By:
Ingredients
  • Meatballs
  • 16 oz Ground Veal
  • 16 oz Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 C Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
  • 2 Eggs, Large
  • 1 Tbsp Salt, plus more as needed
  • ¼ tsp Nutmeg, freshly ground, plus more as needed
  • ¼ tsp Black Pepper, freshly ground, plus more as needed
  • Vegetable Oil - enough to fill a pan 1½ inches deep for frying
  • Flour - for flouring a baking sheet hands
  • Sauce
  • 1 box Pomi strained tomato sauce (approx 26 oz)
  • 1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes (approx 26 oz)
  • 1 C Bell Peppers, minced (red, orange, yellow)
  • ½ C Onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic, diced
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil, for sauteing
  • Salt & Pepper, as needed
  • ¼ tsp Cinnamon
  • Pinch of Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • ½ tsp Thyme, fresh
  • ⅓ C Red Wine
  • Parmesan Cheese, freshly shredded, for serving
  • Basil, fresh, for serving
Instructions
  1. The night before:
  2. Drain the ricotta by wrapping it in cheese cloth, setting it in a mesh strainer set over a bowl. Cover the ricotta with a small plate and set something heavy on the plate to press down on the ricotta. Place in the refrigerator to drain overnight.
  3. The day of:
  4. Combine the veal, ricotta, eggs, cheese, salt, nutmeg and pepper in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands until nice and homogenous.
  5. Test the seasoning by dropping a small piece in boiling water to cook it. Adjust seasoning as needed, then cover and chill for approximately one hour.
  6. Once the mixture is thoroughly chilled, dust a parchment-lined baking sheet with flour. Coat your hands with flour and shape the meat into balls, setting them on the baking sheet. Lightly flour the tops of the meatballs, cover with plastic and chill for another hour.
  7. While the meat balls are chilling, saute the onion, peppers and garlic in olive oil, with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. When they have softened, remove them to a small food processor or blender. Let cool, briefly, then blend until smooth.
  8. Pour the tomato sauces in the pan recently vacated by peppers et al and stir in the pureed peppers, sugar, thyme, nutmeg, cinnamon and thyme. Add salt and pepper, as needed, also adjusting the other spices, as necessary. Bring to a simmer.
  9. Pour the vegetable oil in a frying pan so that the oil is about 1½ inches deep and begin to heat it. When the oil is hot and the meat balls chilled, fry them in the oil in batches - about 4 minutes per batch, turning the meatballs about half way through so that they are evenly cooked and browned. You may have to loosen the bottom of the meatballs from the pan when you turn them over.
  10. As the meat balls finish cooking, transfer them to the sauce to simmer.
  11. Pour off the oil from the frying pan and return it to heat. Deglaze the pan with the wine and reduce by about half. Stir the reduction into the sauce and let the sauce simmer for at least 30 minutes.
  12. Serve with parmesan cheese and fresh basil. If you're in the mood for a really big meal, serve over pasta.
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