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?
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