Most meatball recipes rely on a panade made of milk, eggs and breadcrumbs to bind the meat and keep it moist. At the new Area Four in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Michael Leviton folds ricotta into the mixture to create a rich beef meatball that's also light. The chef's use of grass-fed beef and fresh Italian herbs yields an especially memorable result. Serve with red sauce or piping hot from the oven in a casserole dish à la Area Four for a delicate, flavorful appetizer or main course.
Recipe adapted from Michael Leviton, Area Four, Cambridge, MA
Yield: 20 to 25 meatballs
Cook Time: 30 minutes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1½ cups fresh whole milk ricotta
2½ pounds of ground beef, preferably grass-fed
1 cup finely ground fresh breadcrumbs
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a medium skillet set over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the thyme, oregano and parsley and cook for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, then fold the ricotta cheese into them. Using your hands, mix the cheese-egg mixture with the beef, the reserved onion mixture, breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese until just combined. Season with salt.
3. Using a 1½-inch scoop, scoop the meatballs into rounds; roll each scoop into a 1½-inch ball. In a medium skillet set over medium heat, add the remaining tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the meatballs and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Place the meatballs on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes or until the internal temperature of each meatball is 140°. Serve warm.