Veal And Ricotta Meatballs In Spicy Tomato Sauce

Meatballs or polpettine are an Italian favorite with regional variations, but are not served with pasta in Italy as they are in the United States. Some may say that meatballs are an Italian American invention, yet Pellegrino Artusi, author of La Scienza in Cucina e L’Arte di Mangiar Bene, (The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well) published in 1897, includes three recipes for meatballs, though none of these recipes include pasta. It wasn’t until Italians emigrated to the US and opened restaurants here that meatballs started to be served alongside (or on top of) pasta.

Meatballs can be made of many things, including bread, ricotta cheese, or a variety of ground meats. I learned from my Mother-In-Law that by cooking meatballs in the sauce, you create a much more tender, juicy meatball so I generally follow that rule.

These meatballs combine ground veal and ricotta cheese, are bound with a little breadcrumbs, grated cheese, and eggs, and are then slowly simmered in a spicy tomato sauce until tender and cooked through. You can serve these meatballs on top of Creamy Baked Parmesan Polenta as I have in the photos, on top of pasta, or simply as a main course served in a bowl alongside some good, crusty, Italian bread. I chose to use ground veal as I wanted a lighter meatball, but you can substitute ground beef if you prefer.

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele

Veal And Ricotta Meatballs In Spicy Tomato Sauce

Veal And Ricotta Meatballs In Spicy Tomato Sauce

Yield: Serves 4 - 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes



  • 1 Pound Ground Veal
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 Cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Homemade Soft Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 Garlic Clove, Finely Minced
  • Salt & Pepper To Taste
  • 3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Parsley


  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/3 Cup Finely Chopped Onions
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1 (28 Ounce) Can Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper To Taste
  • 1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil


  1. In a bowl, mix together the meatball ingredients with your hands until blended.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil until sizzling over medium heat, then add the onions and cook, stirring often until tender, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and continue to cook just until fragrant, another minute or two.
  4. Add the tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes, and basil and stir to mix.
  5. Season well with salt and pepper, and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low heat and cook for 15 minutes.
  6. Using damp hands, roll the meatballs into balls and carefully drop into the sauce.
  7. Continue to form all the meatball mixture into balls, and cook for 10 minutes.
  8. Carefully move the meatballs around with a spoon, and add a little additional water if the sauce is too thick.
  9. Cook the meatballs for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until cooked through, then use meatballs and sauce as desired.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram


  1. Yum, this sounds very good. Veal makes such tender meatballs. I usually add veal to other ground meats but all veal sounds great and cheese too. Wow I gotta try this.

  2. This is such a great recipe! I’m Italian from Boston and the only thing my mother does different is she uses all parmesan cheese for the meatball. Having said that, I love the idea of ricotta! These recipes are completely for real and I think you just became my favorite website. 🙂

  3. I have made this reciepe 3 times and love it 🙂 sooo yummy, even gave a serve to my neighbour. Creamy baked parmesan is delicous! Oven cooked, great idea… I have spread the word… Regards From Australia

    Love your receipes

  4. I have made this recipe several times and it is great! Always made a traditional meatball like Mom but these are definitely a keeper. I give it 5 stars out of 5. The soft texture and rich taste are different but so unique and extremely delicious.

  5. We LOVE this so much, it’s my go to mid-week meal. Simple fresh ingredients, amazing flavours and it lasts a few meals, cause there’s only two of us. I’m sitting on the lounge while its cooking on the stove right now, sipping a lovely glass of red. The smells escaping to our neighbours makes them jealous, 🙂

    A huge thank you from another Aussie. Your website & recipes are always winners with us x.

  6. Hi! I’ve made these meatballs TONS of times and they are delicious…I’ve never made the sauce though. My question is, how do you control the grease?! These are so greasy that I generally cook them in a little sauce and then remove them and add more sauce to whatever I’m serving them in. Thanks!

  7. These are my favorite meatballs! Sometimes I sub ground pork for veal because I can’t always find ground veal, sometimes I make your sauce and sometimes I use a jarred marinara, sometimes I serve it over spaghetti instead of polenta. It’s always amazing. I especially love that the meatballs cook in the sauce. Thank you from the bottom of my heart…and the bottom of California. lol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.