Herbed Lamb Meatballs with Rich Tomato Sauce and Ricotta


Chef Seamus Mullen loads these flavor-packed lamb meatballs with almonds, basil, parsley, mint, oregano and thyme, then serves them in a savory tomato sauce spiked with anchovies and a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese. Slideshow:  Great Meatballs 

Herbed Lamb Meatballs with Rich Tomato Sauce and Ricotta
Photo: © Con Poulos
Total Time:
1 hr 30 mins
6 to 8



  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 4 cloves garlic (large minced)

  • 1 cup basil leaves (lightly packed torn)

  • 2 tablespoons oregano leaves

  • 2 bay leaves

  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 56 ounces whole Italian tomatoes with their juices (2 cans crushed)

  • 6 fillets anchovy (large chopped)

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground pepper


  • ½ cup raw almonds (finely chopped)

  • ½ cup milk

  • 2 ½ pounds ground lamb

  • 2 eggs (large lightly beaten)

  • ¼ cup basil leaves (finely chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish)

  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley (finely chopped)

  • 2 tablespoons mint (finely chopped)

  • 1 tablespoon oregano (finely chopped)

  • 1 ½ teaspoons thyme (finely chopped)

  • 2 cloves (large minced)

  • 1 tablespoon dry red wine

  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander

  • ½ teaspoon ground fennel

  • 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt

  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • Ricotta cheese (for serving)


Make the sauce

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the garlic, basil, oregano, bay leaves and red pepper and cook over moderately high heat for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and simmer over moderately low heat, stirring, until the tomatoes are saucy, 1 hour. Stir in the anchovies and season with salt and black pepper.

Make the meatballs

  1. In a bowl, cover the almonds with the milk and let stand until most of the milk has been absorbed, 30 minutes. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the whole basil leaves, olive oil and ricotta and mix well. Form into 1 1/2-inch meatballs and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.

  2. In a skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Working in batches, cook the meatballs over moderately high heat, turning, until nearly cooked through, 7 minutes per batch.

  3. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer until cooked through, 8 minutes. Spoon into bowls, top with ricotta and garnish with basil.

Make Ahead

The meatballs can be refrigerated in the sauce overnight.

Suggested Pairing

Traditional Chianti Classicos, made with only Sangiovese, have an herbal edge that befits these meatballs.

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