Light and Fluffy Meatballs

Makes 30 Meatballs; Serves 6 to 8
In our house, we have different meatballs, depending on the occasion. Family recipes come first, but my favorite premium pizza parlor serves an addictive meatball appetizer that is very different from the versions made by my Italian grandmothers. These spheres of super-puffed ground meat cooked in tomato sauce are absolutely cloud-like and almost melt in your mouth. Surmising that ricotta cheese is the secret weapon, I’ve replicated them here.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 5 slices white bread, crusts removed and torn into pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 pound ground chuck beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 1 pound whole-milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 quarts Basic Italian Tomato Sauce, or other Italian tomato sauce


  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion, cooking until soft but not colored, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cool slightly.
  2. Combine bread and milk in a bowl to soak for 5 minutes. Squeeze excess milk from bread and finely chop. Add chopped bread to the bowl with onions. Add all the remaining ingredients except the tomato sauce. Gently fold with hands to incorporate ingredients, but do not overmix or meatballs will be tough.
  3. Bring tomato sauce to a simmer in a large deep-sided skillet. Pinch 1/4 cup of the meat mixture and gently form a ball with wet hands. Drop the meatballs, as they are formed, directly into the sauce. Cover and simmer, stirring carefully a few times until meatballs are cooked through, about 30 minutes. Serve meatballs with sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.
cook's note
Freezer Friend: Both the meatballs and the sauce can be made in advance, cooled, and frozen separately for versatile serving options. Formed meatballs can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days until ready to cook. Or freeze them in rows on a parchment-lined baking sheet until firm and then transfer to freezer bags. Drop frozen meatballs directly into the sauce and simmer for 1 hour.
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