I know it’s grilling season, but we’ll have all summer to talk about grilling recipes. This week I wanted to try out a recipe that has been tucked away and waiting for me to put my spin on it.
A while back, I asked you guys for a vegetarian meatball recipe, and you came through with some great ideas. Once I had the general concept down, I thought it was time to flavor it up a bit more. So tonight’s featured recipe is a vegetarian spinach ricotta meatball. With that in mind, the recipe theme came into focus. The versatility of ricotta cheese, from main course to desserts.
To start, how about homemade ricotta? JeffreyW has done it and you can click here and he’ll take you step by step through the process.
He then puts his homemade ricotta to good use with Stuffed Shells, as pretty to look at as they are delicious. (recipe here)
I have a great alternative to regular gnocchi, a lighter, easier version using ricotta cheese and a fire roasted sauce to make a simple, quick Baked Gnocchi. (recipe here)
Moving on to dessert, a friend of mine has what feels like weekly potlucks at work and she often takes Apple Lasagna, recipe here, that is always a hit.
And finally from JeffreyW, a beautiful Cannoli recipe, pictured above that can be found here.
Now that you have a bunch of ideas for that tub of ricotta, let’s switch things up before we get to the featured recipe. I’d like to know if you’ve ever made your own wine, beer or hard ciders. I’d like to know details, where did you get your ingredients and how did it all turn out? Besides that, what’s on your menu for the weekend?
Now on to the featured recipe. These a so simple to make and taste so good, it’s a great vegetarian alternative for your pasta dishes. They’re very light and once you get the technique down, you can play with the flavors and customize them to your palate.
Most of the recipes I looked at used Italian Breadcrumbs. But I really feel these need fresh breadcrumbs, so I’ve included instructions for making your own. I didn’t season mine because I didn’t want them to overpower the delicate flavors of the cheeses. Fresh breadcrumbs absorb flavors and moisture more than packaged ones, so I thought it gave the whole meatball a better, lighter texture. I added a bit of garlic powder (fresh garlic did not work with this, it was overpowering and a touch bitter), basil, oregano and fennel. The fennel really took it up a notch. I think next time I might add a bit of red pepper flake.
Spinach and Ricotta Vegetarian Meatballs
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (instructions below)
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese mix
- 1-1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
- 2 tsp fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried basil, crushed
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder (not salt)
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- Salt and pepper
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese
- Olive oil
Breadcrumbs: this took a full 1-lb loaf of day-old Italian or French bread. I bought it from the day-old rack for cheap. I tore it into small pieces, spread out on a baking sheet and dried it in a 200 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. I didn’t want them toasted or seasoned because I thought it would overpower the delicate flavors of these meatballs. Once they were dried, I ran them through the blender. I reserved 1/4 cup for rolling the balls in before cooking.
Meatballs: Mix together ricotta, grated cheeses, spinach and spices. Add the eggs and mix well. Then add the breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup at a time. You want it to come together to form soft balls, but you don’t want it to be dry. Once you can form a soft ball with some structure, you don’t need to add more breadcrumbs.
Scoop up a heaping tablespoon (I used my cookie dough scoop) and roll the mixture into balls.
Mix together 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup grated cheeses in a bowl and roll each meatball in the mixture, coating on all sides.
You can bake or pan fry these. I chose to pan fry, it used a bit of oil, but it gave them a nice flavor. Baking them would be my option if I was doubling the recipe.
To fry: heat olive oil in a skillet on medium and add the meatballs, leaving enough space between them to easily turn them. They are soft, so it’s a delicate process. The good news is, if you really want them round (instead of kind of flattened) you can reshape them after they come out of the pan. Turn them until they are golden brown on all sides.
To bake: place them on a well oiled baking sheet or use parchment paper. Brush them with a bit of oil if desired. Leave space around each one so they brown evenly and bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. You can turn them halfway through if desired.
Originally posted April 2011.
I’ve always liked stuffed peppers, they’re a bit of work, but pretty foolproof. This is a nice twist on an old favorite:
Stuffed Red Bell Peppers
- 4 large red bell peppers (or you can use green)
- 1/2 lb lean ground beef
- 1/2 lb Italian sausage (substitute fresh mushrooms for a veggie version)
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup brown rice, uncooked
- 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese
Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Cut off the top from the peppers (about the top 1/4 inch), remove seeds and membranes. Add peppers to boiling water, remove from heat and let soak 5 minutes. Remove stem and then chop pepper tops. Brown beef with chopped peppers and onions in skillet. Remove whole peppers from water and turn upside down on a paper towel to dry. Add tomatoes, spices, rice and water to hamburger mixture, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover until rice is tender (about 15 minutes) Stir in 1/4 cup cheese and fill whole peppers. Place in a lightly oiled 8×8 baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees until cheese if bubbly and golden.