A couple of years ago, some friends of mine took me to lunch at Scalessa’s in Wilmington. One of the dishes really threw me - I had never seen it before - a meatball salad. The salad was cold and crisp, with some common Italian elements, and the meatballs and sauce were hot and savory. This is not their recipe, but I was really happy with my facsimile.
I think what really brings all those ingredients together though, is the whipped Ricotta cheese.
This is a great meal to put together quickly if you have leftover meatballs from spaghetti night and can skip the first part of this recipe.
This should make enough for four hungry folks.
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
2/3 cup milk
1 lb ground beef or your choice of meat*
1/4 medium onion finely diced or grated
2 cloves garlic minced (I used 8)
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese**
1 tbsp fresh parsley or basil
For the Whipped Ricotta
Whip together the following and set aside:
15 oz. ricotta
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. salt
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.
In a large mixing bowl, add Italian bread crumbs and milk. Combine well and set aside while preparing the other ingredients, for at least 5 minutes.
Add ground beef, onion, garlic, egg, salt, black pepper, Parmesan cheese, and parsley to the breadcrumb mixture, and mix with your hands until just combined. Do not overmix.
* If I have it on hand, I like to add some Italian sweet sausage to the mix.
**Giada DeLaurentis likes to add some Ricotta into her meatball mix with the Parmesan. It does make them a bit lighter, but I don’t prefer it.
Portion the meatball mixture onto the prepared baking sheet (using a cookie or ice cream scoop will make it easier). Wet your hands with water, and roll meatballs into 2” diameter balls.
Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until the meatballs have reached an internal temperature of 165.
Simmer in your favorite sauce for only a few minutes so they don’t dry out.
Most of the salads I’ve had in Italian restaurant are dressed simply - a little high quality olive oil, some white balsamic or red wine vinegar. I did the same but used arugula instead of a plainer lettuce.
Make a bed of lettuce and scoop some ricotta in the middle. Top with the hot meatballs and some sauce.
I added some roasted peppers, cippolini onions, and pepperoncini. But cherry tomatoes, black olives or more Parmesan are great additions.
Don’t forget some crusty garlic bread to go with.