Ricotta Polpette (or meatballs minus the meat) is a recipe that originates in none other than my home of Calabria, Italy. The dish, which involves the use of ricotta cheese in place of meat, derives from the traditional peasant cuisine — made with simple ingredients but of great taste and authenticity.
These tasty and nutritious polpette are excellent served with pasta.
My mamma would always make them when we had some nice fresh ricotta made from my dad — or maybe even a neighbor (in Calabria, if your neighbor has an abundance of crops or happens to make cheeses, olive oil, or wine, chances are your table would be overflowing with their generosity).
Polpette di Ricotta is also one of the first recipes my mamma taught me to cook. It’s simple and delicious, like many Calabrese recipes.
1 cup ricotta cheese (part skim)
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
1 mid-sized egg
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
Fresh marinara sauce with basil
Handful of fresh parsley
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
Dash of fresh nutmeg
Drain the ricotta over a fine-mesh sieve for at least an hour.
Meanwhile, start making your fresh marinara sauce.
Once drained, put the ricotta in a large bowl with the finely grated pecorino cheese, egg, Panko breadcrumbs, and chopped parsley. Then season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
Start working the ingredients together with your hands and season more to taste.
If the mix is too smooth to form balls the size of a walnut, add more breadcrumbs. If it is too firm, add some of the marinara sauce.
Form the balls, adding them to the pan of marinara sauce. Let them cook in the simmering sauce for about 10 minutes (don’t forget to sway the pan from time to time to ensure the polpette get cooked through evenly).
When ready to serve, add some fresh basil to the sauce and dish it up. Serve by itself or with pasta.
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