Ricotta Meatballs (no-meat recipe)

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These melt-in-your-mouth tender ricotta meatballs cooked in tomato sauce are so easy to make with a handful of ingredients. They make a wonderful meatless meal that’s full of flavor and delicious.

They’re also versatile, kid-friendly, and ready in about 30 minutes.

Top view of a grey plate with ricotta meatballs in tomato sauce and basil.

I’m sure some people would argue that these are not proper meatballs, and I agree: these are meatless ricotta meatballs! : )

Although I don’t label myself as a vegetarian, I love cooking and sharing meatless meals. I’m also for variations on recipes that taste good and create an easy way to cook with less meat.

And I’ve called this recipe ricotta meatballs because it turns a handful of simple ingredients into a nourishing family meal that’s perfect served as a main dish with vegetables, pasta or rice on the side.

Whipping up the ricotta mixture and shaping the balls is also easy and straightforward, so much so that the kids will enjoy making them as well as eating them!

Added bonus? These ricotta meatballs are cooked and coated in a simple yet delicious tomato sauce that make them extra soft and juicy.

What’s not to love?!

Make a double batch, they keep well in the fridge, and are great for packed lunch too. Enjoy!

List of the ingredients

  • Whole milk ricotta
  • Egg
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic
  • Parsley
  • Tomato passata (or canned crushed tomatoes)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
The ingredients to make the ricotta meatballs are arranged over a white background.

How to make ricotta meatballs

(Note: this is a quick description, the full recipe is at the bottom of the page)

  • Place the drained ricotta in a bowl with the egg, parsley, grated parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir all the ingredient with a spoon.
  • Add the breadcrumbs and mix until well combined and easy to work with.
  • Form the ricotta balls and place them on a large plate.
Top view of a glass bowl full with ricotta, egg, chopped parsley, salt and pepper.
  • Saute’ the garlic in olive oil until fragrant.
  • Stir in the tomato sauce, water, shredded basil, salt and pepper.
  • Add the ricotta meatballs to the skillet and cook gently for 15 minutes. Enjoy!
Top view of a large white skillet full with tomato sauce and ricotta meatballs.

Recipe notes

Ingredients for delicious ricotta meatballs

The recipe uses minimal ingredients, but it’s important not to skip the flavor boosters:

Ricotta: for best flavor and texture use whole milk ricotta for this recipe and make sure you drain it first in order to remove excess water.

Egg: you need only one egg to bind all the ingredients in the ricotta mixture and to make the ricotta meatballs dense and spongy.

Parmesan: grated parmesan cheese adds flavor, but pecorino cheese is another good option instead of parmesan. Don’t skip the grated cheese.

Herbs: they add flavor. You can use fresh chopped basil in this recipe for its fresh aromatic notes. Alternatively, you can use 1/2 teaspoon of oregano.

Garlic: go easy on garlic, a small garlic clove will be enough without being overpowering.

Breadcrumbs: act as a binder, helping to hold the ricotta meatballs together absorbing the moisture. The mixture should be soft and easy to work with.

Tomato sauce: I make the tomato sauce using some olive oil, garlic, fresh basil, and tomato passata, also known as tomato puree (but not the same as tomato paste which is a concentrate). Tomato passata is sold in glass bottles and it’s smoother than crushed tomatoes. My fav brand is Mutti. However, canned crushed tomatoes, or even whole peeled tomatoes, work fine too.

Water: it makes the sauce thinner during the cooking and prevents the meatballs to stick to the bottom, but no worries, the final result won’t be a watery tomato sauce.

Salt & pepper: as usual, make sure you adjust the seasoning to taste.

Close-up of a serving of


You can store leftover ricotta meatballs with their tomato sauce in the fridge for about 3 days, and they’re freezable too.

This meatless recipe makes not only a delicious meal to enjoy at home, but it’s also great for meal prep to take to the office or to make a school packed lunch (my son loves them!).

How to serve ricotta meatballs

I usually serve these ricotta meatballs and tomato sauce over penne or spaghetti, but you can use any pasta, rice, or grains of your choice. They’re also delicious with crusty panini rolls, focaccia, or you can serve them as a main dish with mashed potatoes or vegetables!

More Ricotta Recipes for you!

This fresh Italian cheese works beautifully in both sweet and savoury recipes, from scrumptious quick pasta dishes to moist cakesand more. Have a look at this inspiring collection of amazing ricotta recipes to see how to get the most of it. Just to name a few:

If you make these scrumptious ricotta meatballs, or you have a question, let me know by leaving a comment. I would love to hear from you! x

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Close-up of a plate full of ricotta meatballs in tomato sauce.
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Ricotta Meatballs (no-meat recipe)

These melt-in-your-mouth tender ricotta meatballs cooked in tomato sauce are so easy to make with a handful of ingredients. They make a wonderful meatless family meal that is full of flavor and delicious.
Recipe yield 20 meatballs (about 5 per serving)
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Ricotta meatballs
Servings: 4
Calories: 200kcal
Author: Katia


  • 1 cup (250 grams) whole milk ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup (30 grams) parmesan cheese, grated
  • ¾ scant cup (100 grams) breadcrumbs, or more if needed

Tomato sauce

  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ½ cup (360 ml) tomato passata (or crushed tomatoes)
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) water
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt, or to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoon chopped parsley or basil, optional


  • Make the ricotta balls: place ricotta cheese, egg, garlic, parsley, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a large bowl, and stir with a spoon to mix all the ingredients.
  • Add the breadcrumbs and gently mix everything until well combined. You should get a mixture that is soft but not soggy. Try to shape a ball to test if the mixture is easy to work with, and add just a little bit of extra breadcrumbs if needed.
  • Wet your hands, and then form the mixture into small balls (approx 1 ¼-inch balls), place them on a large plate and set aside. You should get about 20 balls.
  • Make the tomato sauce: in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil and gently fry the garlic until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Stir in the tomato sauce, the water, the shredded basil, and season with salt and pepper (I use approx ¼ tsp of salt and a few grinds or black pepper, but make sure it's seasoned to your liking). Bring to a low simmer.
  • Gently add the ricotta meatballs, one at a time, stir slowly to cover them in sauce, reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid, and cook for about 15 minutes. Stir frequently and gently, and feel free to add an extra touch of water if the sauce looks too thick.
  • Taste and make sure you're happy with the seasoning, turn the heat off and serve with pasta, rice, crusty bread or vegetables. Enjoy!


Nutrition facts: the nutrition values are  for one serving and are based on an online nutrition calculator.  It’s an estimate only and it should not be considered as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice. Please see my disclosure policies.


Calories: 200kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 79mg | Sodium: 751mg | Potassium: 352mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 591IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 232mg | Iron: 2mg


  1. 5 stars
    Katia, the meatless meatballs are amazing!
    Mine are super soft and on the verge to fall apart, I guess not enough breadcrumbs? However, I will tinker with it. These are YUMMY!!!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your feedback, Svenja! I’m so glad you loved them.
      Re the mixture, I think it was a bit wet, but a bit more of breadcrumbs would help next time. : )
      Cheers x

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