Sausage Meatballs with Ricotta in Tomato Sauce

Tender Italian meatballs with ground pork shoulder, Italian sausage, bread, ricotta cheese, eggs, and herbs, in a simple tomato sauce with basil and Parmesan.

Meatballs with Ricotta in Tomato Sauce
Elise Bauer

Do you like Italian meatballs?

I've been experimenting with meatball recipes and have found an excellent one here.

The basic idea is to take a base of ground sausage or pork, mix in other meat such as ground beef, pancetta or prosciutto, add herbs, bread cubes, ricotta cheese and eggs, then brown them on high heat in the oven, add some crushed tomatoes and cook on lower heat until they are done.

Why Make Meatballs with Sausage?

The following is an adaptation from a couple of recipes from San Francisco's A16 restaurant (the book A16: Food + Wine and an A16 recipe in Food and Wine). We used half ground pork and half Italian sweet sausage with some minced prosciutto for these meatballs.

We use sausage because of the seasoning and the higher fat content which keeps the meatballs from drying out. The ricotta helps as a binder and also helps smooth out the texture and enrich the flavor.

We're meatball lovers here, so if you have a favorite meatball recipe to share, please let us know about it in the comments.

Sausage Meatballs with Ricotta in Tomato Sauce

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 90 mins
Total Time 105 mins
Servings 5 to 6 servings
Yield 24 meatballs

If fresh basil is not available, add a tablespoon of dried basil to the tomatoes before adding to the meatballs. Alternatively, Muir Glen makes a canned tomato with basil in it which would also work.

* To chiffonade basil leaves, stack leaves on top of each other, then roll up leaves lengthwise like a cigar, slice thinly starting at the end.


  • 10 ounces ground pork shoulder

  • 10 ounces sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings

  • 2 ounces prosciutto or pancetta, minced (helps to put in the freezer for 15 minutes before mincing)

  • 4 cups cubed white bread, crusts removed

  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

  • 2/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (high quality, either San Marzano or Muir Glen)

  • 1/4 cup chiffonade* fresh basil leaves

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Start making the meatball mixture:

    In a large bowl, add the pork, Italian sausage, prosciutto or pancetta, bread cubes, parsley, oregano, fennel, red pepper flakes, and salt. Use your hands to mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Do not overwork.

  2. Add the eggs and ricotta:

    Whisk the beaten eggs and ricotta together in a separate bowl until there are no more large clumps of ricotta. Pour into the bowl of the meat mixture. Mix with your hands until just incorporated. Again, do not overmix.

    Elise Bauer

    Simple Tip!

    If you want to test the seasoning, you can take a small bit of the mix, form it into a patty, and heat it in a small skillet on the stovetop until cooked through. Depending on how this test patty tastes to you, add more herbs, chili, or salt to taste to the meat mixture. Keep the meat mixture in the refrigerator while doing this.

  3. Form the meatballs and place in roasting pan:

    Preheat the oven to 425°F. Coat the bottom of a large roasting pan with olive oil.

    Form meatballs in your hand, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, using about 3 tablespoons of the mixture to form each meatball. Arrange in the pan so there is some space between them. If they are too crowded, they will steam and not brown.

    Line up the ricotta meatballs on a baking sheet
    Elise Bauer
  4. Brown the meatballs in the oven:

    Bake until the meatballs are beginning to brown, about 30 minutes total, flipping the meatballs after about 20 minutes.

  5. Add the crushed tomatoes and lower the heat:

    Remove the pan from oven. Use a metal spatula to dislodge any meatballs that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan. Carefully cover the pan with aluminum foil (the pan is still hot!).

    Elise Bauer

    Return the pan to the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 300°F. Cook for an additional hour to 1 1/2 hours.

    Sprinkle basil into the sauce and top with Parmesan before serving.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
503 Calories
30g Fat
27g Carbs
33g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 5 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 503
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 30g 38%
Saturated Fat 11g 55%
Cholesterol 172mg 57%
Sodium 1212mg 53%
Total Carbohydrate 27g 10%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 33g
Vitamin C 20mg 98%
Calcium 284mg 22%
Iron 5mg 28%
Potassium 812mg 17%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.