Yes, meatballs and red sauce go together like bread and butter, chips and dip or eggs and bacon. But such strictness takes a toll on innovation, and Jason Neroni, the chef at Superba Snack Bar in Los Angeles, has removed the meatball from its red sauce rut. Laced with ricotta, red pepper flakes and smoked paprika, the classic spheres take a lighter, spicier form. At Superba, Neroni serves the piquant meatballs alongside salsa verde, but is just as prone to pair them with spoonfuls of grainy mustard. Who said breakups have to be so hard?
Recipe adapted from Jason Neroni, Superba, Venice, California
Yield: 12 to 15 meatballs
Cook Time: 20 minutes (plus 1 hour to drain ricotta)
½ cup fresh ricotta
1½ pounds ground pork
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Whole grain mustard, for serving
1. Drain the ricotta: Lightly dampen a piece of doubled cheesecloth with cold water and use the cheesecloth to line a fine-mesh sieve. Place the ricotta in the sieve and set over a medium bowl to drain for 1 hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large bowl, combine the drained ricotta with the pork, garlic, parsley, eggs, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Use your hands to gently mix the ingredients together, and then roll into 2-inch meatballs.
3. Place the meatballs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until browned and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Serve warm with mustard.