Ricotta and Spinach Meat(less)balls

February 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

J: We here at Nombudsman have a thing for meatballs.  They are self-contained spheres of deliciousness, and homemade ones (is there any other way to go?) can have so much awesome flavor packed into them that you could almost eat them as a stand-alone meal.

… but, when you have an excuse to make pasta, you may as well, right?  I mean, boiling water isn’t that hard, I’m sure you can spare a pot to set on a back burner and let the pasta take care of itself.  It provides a nice little bedding for the meatballs to nestle into, and mellows out the sauce just enough that it’s still awesomely distinctive but not punch-in-the-face strong.

These meatballs were pretty great, in the context of the pasta and sauce.  And they have no meat in them!  They are entirely vegetarian (though I’m going to refer to them as meatballs for the purposes of simplicity here).  If/when we make these again, though, we decided we’d probably do a couple things differently, because on their own we thought that they could have been a little more flavorful.  So, I’ve noted our suggestions and modifications in the ingredients list, and if you decide to try them, let us know how you thought the meatballs came out with the changes!

Okay, we’ll get started with the meatballs and then move on to the pasta sauce.

pretty AND tasty!

Ricotta and Spinach Meat(less)balls
(original recipe here)
1 c ricotta cheese
1 c Parmesan cheese, grated
1 c fresh spinach, chopped pretty finely
1 tbsp oregano, fresh if you can get it, though we used dried
(1-2 cloves garlic, minced — we thought this would have kicked up the meatballs a little and would have complemented the garlic in the pasta sauce)
(Pinch of red pepper flakes — again, giving the meatballs just that little something extra)
Salt and pepper (don’t skimp on the salt — obviously don’t overdo it, that would be worse than undersalting, but don’t be shy to toss in a generous pinch)
4 eggs
1 1/2-2 c breadcrumbs
Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 375.  (You can also fry these, though we decided baking would be simpler and a lot less messy; to see frying suggestions, check out the link to the original recipe.)

Start off by mixing together your cheeses, spinach, and oregano in a large bowl.

vaguely reminiscent of green eggs (minus the ham)

Mix in your salt and pepper and, if you’re using them, the garlic and red pepper flakes.  Then stir in your eggs thoroughly.

soup?  these pictures are so ambiguous

Now add your breadcrumbs (you can see ours faithfully waiting in its little measuring cup at the bottom-right of the above picture!) — throw in a cup, mix them in, and add more a little at a time until the batter coheres pretty well.

much more convincing as potential meat(less)balls

Form the meatballs into, well, meatballs, and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet.  If you have extra bread crumbs, you can roll the meatballs in them before placing them on the baking sheet; we didn’t, and they certainly tasted fine, but they did stick to the foil a little, so maybe that could have been avoided if we’d coated them in breadcrumbs first.

they're so vibrant!

Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the meatballs, and bake them for 30-40 minutes.  Turn them over about halfway through.

baked and gorgeous!

So, while your meatballs are baking, get your pasta rolling.  The amounts for the sauce given here are enough for about half a pound of pasta; the original amounts over at Macheesmo are for a full pound.

Pasta sauce
(original recipe here)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced (yes, we used a full onion, we’re awesome like that)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-14oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tbsp oregano; again, use fresh if you’ve got it
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes

So, in a medium-sized pot, heat up your olive oil.  Throw in the onion and cook it for a few minutes, and then add all the rest of your ingredients: garlic, tomatoes, and spices.  Personally, I might have preferred the sauce to be a little smoother than it was, since the tomatoes didn’t really come apart that much in the cooking process; if this is your preference as well, feel free to blend the tomatoes before throwing them in (Erik preferred the chunkier sauce, so it’s entirely up to you).

this smells incredible

Let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes, adding more water if necessary to keep the consistency to your liking.  Somewhere in there, start pasta water boiling (don’t forget to salt it!) and get your pasta cooking so it’ll be done about when the meatballs and sauce finish up.

this smells even more incredible

When everything is finished (at precisely the same time, of course, because you are just that amazing), serve up some pasta, veggie meatballs, pour on some sauce, and grate some extra Parmesan over top for the finishing touch.  Enjoy!

meatballs without meat: think of the possibilities!

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§ 2 Responses to Ricotta and Spinach Meat(less)balls

  • canalcook says:

    Those meatless balls look fantastic, I am always looking for good veggie recipes (not veggie, but many friends are). I also absolutely love your name, and am very sad I did not think of it first, being a lawyer and a cookery blogger. Kudos!

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