There are people who stalk actors or politicians.
Me? I stalk chefs.
Not in the scary, restraining-order way.
But I admit to keeping my eyes peeled for them whenever I’m out and about.
So, it was with great pleasure that a few years ago while in New York, my husband and I spotted chefs Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr waiting for a table at the same restaurant we were dining in. Hey, it’s a sure sign that a place must be good if other chefs are dining there on their nights off, right?
Given their pedigree, when I spotted their recipe a months ago for “Lamb-Ricotta Meatballs Braised in Tomato Sauce” in the Wall Street Journal, I knew it had to be a sure-fire winner.
It hit it out of the park in every which way.
These are some of the most pillowy and flavorful meatballs ever.
Ricotta and three eggs ensure their lightness and moistness. The meatballs are rolled in flour before getting seared, then finished cooking in a simple tomato sauce, which thickens and takes on this wonderful velvety, gravy-like consistency.
These bountiful meatballs — I got about 18 of them from this recipe — are a little spicy, plenty comforting, and get a bit of natural sweetness from the tomatoes and the ricotta.
They are saucy enough to plop atop spaghetti or to tuck inside a hoagie roll. Or pile them in a bowl with a hunk of crusty bread alongside to sop up the sauce.
No stalking required, either. (wink, wink)
Lamb-Ricotta Meatballs Braised in Tomato Sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Spanish onion, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1/2 pound fresh ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
3 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
5 tablespoons minced parsley
2 cups all-purpose flour
To make the sauce: Add half the oil to a large pot over medium heat. Stir in garlic and pepper flakes. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and simmer until sauce tightens and flavors develop, about 15 minutes. Season with salt.
Meanwhile, make meatballs. In a large bowl, combine ground lamb, ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, smoked paprika and parsley. Mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread flour across a baking sheet. Use your hands to form a scant 1/4 cup lamb mixture into a large meatball. Drop meatball onto floured baking sheet and gently roll to fully cover. Repeat with remaining lamb mixture.
Add remaining oil to a large saute pan over medium heat. Once oil is hot, shake excess flour from meatballs and add to pan in batches. Once browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side, add meatballs to simmering sauce.
Add a splash of water to deglaze saute pan, scraping up any browned bits. Stir pan drippings into pot with tomato sauce. Simmer until meatballs cook through, about 15 minutes. Serve with bread and steamed or roasted broccolini.
From Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr of Frenchette restaurant, as published in the Wall Street Journal
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