I don’t have an ounce of Italian in me, but it doesn’t stop me from being a lover of Italian food.  Particularly when its these herbed lamb meatballs with tomato sauce and ricotta.  Featured in this month’s Food & Wine, this main course dish is an excellent wintertime meal when you have the luxury of time.

First of all, we got the kids involved in making the meatballs, which always ups the chances of them eating the main course.  We were 2/2 in involvement in the process and 1/2 in actually eating the meatballs last night.  Not bad.  My daughter actually told me that I could only take half of her second meatball when I asked her if she was done and whether I could eat hers.  My son refused to taste it, and I am still holding out hope that he’ll eat some leftovers.

To add to their appeal, these meatballs are gluten-free.  Instead of using breadcrumbs, you soak finely chopped almonds in milk and add it the meatball mix.  Its fabulous!

And this is a fairly healthy recipe as well.  Suitable for a lazy Saturday night with the fam in the first week of January 2014.

Just a few comments and thoughts.  I followed this recipe to a tee, not being Italian and all.  But I think you can probably get away with using a little less olive oil than called for to cut back on the fat.

It is worth noting that this is fairly time intensive when you consider all of the fresh herbs you have to cut up.  On the bright side, its a good recipe for practicing your knife skills.  While the magazine claims that you can do the whole thing in an hour and half, we were well over 2 hours before we were eating the main course.  But I suppose that could have been the kid factor.

The basil garnish and the ricotta are a must here.  They balance that the rich taste of the lamb.  Don’t omit!

Finally, the ingredient list is daunting even for me, someone who has a tendency to throw the kitchen sink into recipes.  But suffer through, bring the list to the store, and use it as an opportunity to cook with a variety of fresh herbs all week long.

Herbed Lamb Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Ricotta
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup lightly packed basil leaves, torn
  • 2 tablespoons oregano leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Two 28-ounce cans whole Italian tomatoes with their juices, crushed
  • 6 large anchovy fillets, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup raw almonds, finely chopped
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2½ pounds ground lamb
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup finely chopped basil leaves, plus whole leaves for garnish
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped oregano
  • 1½ teaspoons finely chopped thyme
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dry red wine
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Ricotta cheese, for serving
  1. MAKE THE SAUCE In a large saucepan, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the garlic, basil, oregano, bay leaves and red pepper and cook over moderately high heat for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and simmer over moderately low heat, stirring, until the tomatoes are saucy, 1 hour. Stir in the anchovies and season with salt and black pepper.
  2. MAKE THE MEATBALLS In a bowl, cover the almonds with the milk and let stand until most of the milk has been absorbed, 30 minutes. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the whole basil leaves, olive oil and ricotta and mix well. Form into 1½-inch meatballs and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. In a skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Working in batches, cook the meatballs over moderately high heat, turning, until nearly cooked through, 7 minutes per batch.
  4. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer until cooked through, 8 minutes. Spoon into bowls, top with ricotta and garnish with basil.




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