Beef-Ricotta Meatballs with Braised Beet Greens


The secret to these luscious meatballs is using ground beef that has a fairly high fat content and mixing it with fresh ricotta, milk-soaked bread and aromatic seasonings like fennel and lemon zest. Slideshow:  More Meatball Recipes 

Beef-Ricotta Meatballs with Braised Beet Greens
Photo: © Rick Poon
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins



  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 carrot, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1 celery rib, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground pepper

  • 3 anchovy fillets in oil, drained and chopped

  • 1/2 cup tomato paste

  • 1 pound beet greens, coarsely chopped


  • 2 ounces day-old bread (one 1-inch thick slice)

  • 1/4 cup whole milk

  • 1 pound ground beef (25 percent fat)

  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese

  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

  • 1/2 tablespoon ground fennel

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup canola oil

  • Chopped oregano and flaky sea salt, for garnish


Prepare the Greens

  1. In a pot, heat the oil. Add the carrot, onion and celery, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until the vegetables are very tender and caramelized, 20 minutes. Add the anchovies and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the anchovies dissolve and the tomato paste is deep red, 5 minutes. Add the beet greens, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing occasionally, until wilted, 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, Make the Meatballs

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

  2. In a large bowl, combine the beef, ricotta, Parmigiano, egg, lemon zest, crushed red pepper, parsley, fennel, kosher salt and black pepper. Squeeze any excess milk from the bread and add the bread to the bowl. Mix the meat mixture well, then roll it into eighteen 1 1/2-inch balls; transfer to a baking sheet.

  3. 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.

  4. Rewarm the beet greens and transfer to a platter; top with the meatballs. Serve garnished with Parmigiano, chopped oregano and sea salt.

Make Ahead

The uncooked meatballs can be refrigerated overnight. The cooked greens can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Suggested Pairing

Medium-bodied Barbera from Piedmont's Alba region is known for its vibrance in both color and fruit flavor. It's great with these rich meatballs.

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