Your favourite meatballs baked in a ricotta and spinach marinara with herbs and parmesan – spoon over pasta for a delicious Sunday family supper!
This recipe came about out of the need to use up the ricotta in our fridge before it spoiled. I had purchased a large container at Costco a few weeks prior. Of course, everything at Costco has been supersized, and I ended up using only half of the container.
I was to spend a week at our house alone. I tend to always put others first, so I decided to prepare a meal or two to get John.e and McKenna through the week. They were staying behind at our apartment in Toronto. McKenna had school all week, and John had to work.
Lasagna freezes and reheats very well, so that was one of the dishes I prepared for them. When I returned to Toronto the following week, that leftover ricotta was still in the fridge.
Dad was visiting and I needed something good to serve for dinner. These Ricotta and Spinach Marinara Meatballs were born and they were delicious! Let’s talk about assembling this dish.
Where’s the meatball recipe?
This specific recipe does not come complete with a recipe for homemade meatballs. And, there’s good reason! I have not perfected a real meatball to date, because we don’t eat them! John.e is a vegetarian, so whenever we have meatballs, they’re always vegetarian.
Most of the time, we buy frozen vegetarian meatballs. We have found a brand that we really like (even to those of us who are not vegetarian!) But, if I decide to make my own meatballs, I always turn to my Black Bean and Tofu Meatballs.
I have a great recipe for Cauliflower Brown Rice Meatballs too. But, they will not hold up in this dish. Because of the moisture, they will fall apart. It’s best to add those to a pasta sauce rather than bake them in a sauce.
You can use meatballs that you prepare on your own, or you can use frozen, store-bought meatballs. I know sometimes the thoughts of having to prepare one recipe just to make another recipe can be quite daunting, so this recipe has been tested with frozen meatballs and it works perfectly!
If you really want to go all out and make meatballs from scratch, please do so. You may have a meatball recipe that you use over and over again, so you can use that one. If you don’t have such a recipe, I would recommend this one: Easy Homemade Meatballs.
Keep the water out!
This dish has a few ingredients that tend to add a lot of moisture to the finished product. It’s important to do what you can to avoid this, because who wants a watery sauce!?
This recipe uses frozen spinach. Be sure to thaw the spinach completely! And, once thawed, you need to squeeze every bit of water out. I squeeze the water out by hand. Set the “dried” spinach onto a few layers of paper towel.
Place a few more layers of paper towel on top. Set a heavy cutting board on top of that. Then place my heaviest cooking pot onto the cutting board. I’m basically getting rid of as much water as possible.
Ricotta has water content too. So, it will release the moisture during the baking time. Once you take the pan out of the oven, let it set for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Some of the water will be reabsorbed. Some moisture is expected and needed – it will help when tossing with pasta!
Once all is said and done, you’re left with a wonderful dish with a few possibilities when it comes to serving. Like I had previously mentioned, topping cooked pasta is the first thing that comes to mind. That’s how I served it!
But, this would work very well for homemade meatballs subs. Top the buns with the meatballs. Add a few slices of mozzarella cheese. Place under the broiler until bubbly and brown. Doesn’t that sound good?
I would totally serve this as an appetizer too! Grill some crostini and place it around the baking dish. Everyone can use the bread to scoop up the meatballs and the sauce. Or, stick toothpicks into the meatballs and serve the entire dish for appetizers!
Ricotta and Spinach Marinara Meatballs
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- 300 grams frozen spinach, squeezed very dry
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 28 ounces canned tomato sauce
- 24 meatballs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl, stir together the ricotta, parmesan, spinach, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, oregan, and basil until well combined.
- Pour the marinara sauce into a baking dish.
- Scoop the ricotta mixture into the baking dish in heaping tablespoons.
- Nestle the meatballs into the sauce and around the mounds of ricotta.
- Drizzle the olive oil evenly over the top.
- Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven. Top with parsley and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.