Marco Canora’s veal and ricotta meatballs didn’t end up winning “Meatball Madness” this year, but to know them is to love them. So while they’re still fresh in your mind, we’ve secured a copy of his recipe. For more like this, pick up his first cookbook, Salt to Taste: The Keys to Confident Cooking, which hit stores yesterday with a foreword by his old boss, Tom Colicchio. The tome features 100 recipes, including those of dishes served at Hearth and, well, that place he used to operate. Veal and ricotta meatballs, straight ahead.
Veal and Ricotta Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
Recipe by Marco Canora
Salt to Taste
There’s no getting around the fact that this recipe is a pain in the neck. You
have to start a day ahead, keep your meat chilled, and really can’t take
shortcuts. No doubt you’re thinking that a recipe for something as homey as
meatballs shouldn’t be picky and complicated. In theory I agree, but I have to
tell you, these meatballs are worth it.
1 pound fresh ricotta cheese
1 pound ground veal (have the butcher triple grind the veal
or pass it through a meat grinder), chilled
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus additional for serving
1 tablespoon of kosher salt plus additional for seasoning the sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
About 1 cup all-purpose flour
Rich Tomato Sauce (page 20)
Vegetable oil for frying
Spoon the ricotta onto a large piece of cheesecloth; gather the sides together
around the cheese and tie closed. Place the wrapped cheese in a sieve set over
a bowl. Weight the cheese and refrigerate overnight to drain.
Combine the ricotta, veal, eggs, and Parmigiano in a large bowl. Season the
mixture with 1 tablespoon salt, a generous amount of pepper, and nutmeg.
Mix vigorously (it’s best to use your hands) until completely smooth, pale, and
homogenized, about 4 minutes.
Test the seasoning by poaching a pinch of the mixture in simmering water
(this is a truer test of the level of seasoning than frying). It should taste
assertively salty (braising the meatballs in tomato sauce tames the seasoning).
If the sample is too bland, add a little more salt and mix again. Chill the
mixture thoroughly before shaping into meatballs.
Dust a baking sheet and your hands with flour. Keep the remaining flour
nearby in a bowl. Gently form the meat into balls about 21⁄2” in diameter,
flouring your hands again between meatballs (alternatively, use a floured ice
cream scoop to form the meatballs). Arrange the meatballs on the floured
baking sheet. There is enough mixture to make 9 meatballs, 2 per person
(plus an extra for the cook). Cover the meatballs with plastic wrap and chill
Warm the tomato sauce in a large Dutch oven or high-sided skillet over
medium-low heat. Season it conservatively with salt and pepper.
Heat about 1⁄2” oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot,
begin carefully frying the meatballs in batches, moving them as little as possible.
Cook the meatballs until the bottoms are nicely browned, about 2
minutes, then gently turn them. Continue frying until the meatballs are
browned all over, about 10 minutes more. Using a slotted spoon, carefully
transfer the meatballs to the pot of tomato sauce.
Finish cooking the meatballs in the tomato sauce, simmering gently over
medium-low heat for at least 30 minutes (they can remain in the sauce for
hours without ill effect). Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt
and pepper. Serve the meatballs alone or over pasta with additional