“All Beef” Beef-Ricotta Meatballs with Braised Beet Greens

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Beef-Ricotta Meatballs with Braised Beet Greens

I recently came across a recipe for Beef-Ricotta Meatballs from Bestia Chef Ori Menashe. Instead of being served on top of pasta his delicious looking meatballs come with a pile of tender Braised Beet Greens. Which intrigued me because I make a lot of meatballs and I rarely serve them with pasta. American-style Spaghetti and Meatballs is the obvious exception but I never fool myself into believing that pasta is the most traditional Italian accompaniment to meatballs. In fact, my very first blog post on for Sippity Sup was a recipe (and pompous dissertation) on what I call Neapolitan Meatballs. There was even a cheeky video featuring a much younger me. That post was almost 10 years ago!

Since then I’ve made a lot of meatballs. Lamb, chicken, even bean. Proving that the meatball is a little more versatile than my proclamation on the subject all those years ago. Still, there’s a part of me that rigidly believes everything I wrote in that long forgotten post. Things like meat: a traditional Italian meatball must be made using 2 maybe 3 types of ground meat, right? It should also be browned in a pan and then finished cooking in the sauce, right? Well, I shouldn’t say “finished” because I’d always heard that the best meatballs are allowed to cool in the sauce completely and are not served until they’ve been reheated. It has something to do with osmosis. These are all true statements, right?

Beef-Ricotta Meatballs

I say this because Chef Menashe is known in Los Angeles for Italian food that tastes like it comes straight out of a grandmother’s kitchen. I would expect that his methods and recipes would be nothing but traditional. So, as I was silently approving the fact that Chef Menashe’s Beef-Ricotta Meatballs are not served with pasta I also started to note a few less expected elements. First, he kicks osmosis out the door. These meatballs don’t touch sauce until they hit the plate. Second (and most surprising to me) his meatballs are made with a mixture of ricotta and 100% beef. No veal, no pork, and certainly no turkey. Instead of relying on added ground pork for fatty flavor this recipe suggests beef at a ratio of 25% fat (the same ratio I prefer for burgers). I make juicy burgers so I’ll admit this fact got me rethinking the very premise of the very first post I made to this blog. Which means any and/or all of my other posts could be meaningless too. Or, more drastically, could there be more than one way to roll a meatball? Anyone have an Italian grandmother they could ask? GREG

meatballs Beef-Ricotta Meatballs with Braised Beet Greens

Beef-Ricotta Meatballs

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Adapted from Food & Wine MagazinePublished

Try serving these meatballs with braised greens for a healthy alternative to pasta.

Beef-Ricotta Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2 ounce crustless rustic bread (slightly stale, torn into 1-inch chunks)
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 pound ground beef (preferably 25% fat)
  • ½ cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste, but be bold)
  • 2-3 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 3 teaspoon fennel pollen (may also use ground fennel seed)
  • salt and pepper (as needed)
  • 4 tablespoon canola oil (divided)
  • fresh oregano leaves (as garnish)
  • sea salt (as garnish)

Directions

In a bowl, soak the bread in the milk until the milk is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the beef, ricotta, Parmesan, egg, lemon zest, crushed red pepper, parsley, fennel pollen, kosher salt and black pepper. Squeeze any excess milk from the bread and spread the bread around the bowl. Mix the meat mixture well, then roll it into eighteen 1 ½-inch balls; transfer to a baking sheet.

In a cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the canola oil. Cook half of the meatballs over moderate heat, turning, until golden brown and no longer pink within, about 15 minutes. Repeat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil and meatballs.

Serve garnished with Parmigiano, chopped oregano and sea salt.

Braised Beet Greens

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Adapted from Food & Wine MagazinePublished

Can be made several hours ahead and gently reheated before serving.

Braised Beet Greens served with Meatballs

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 1-2 ½-inch diced carrots (about 1 cup)
  • 1 stalk celery (about ½ cup)
  • salt and pepper (as needed)
  • 3-4 anchovy fillets
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • 1 pound beet greens (cut into 1-inch pieces, thick stems discarded)
  • water (optional)

Directions

In a pot, heat the oil. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, season with salt and pepper and cook over medium-low heat until the vegetables have softened. Add the anchovies and tomato paste, stirring often, until the anchovies dissolve and the tomato paste is deep red about 5 minutes. Add the beet greens, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing occasionally, until wilted, about 7 minutes. Adjust consistency with a little water if necessary. Serve warm.

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