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Pork, spinach and ricotta meatballs – with a bonus tomato sauce recipe.

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I’ll be honest, pork is my kryptonite in the kitchen. I find it difficult to get right, it’s either undercooked or dry and tough, and for that reason we don’t have it very often. It’s a shame considering how affordable and delicious it is. I’ve only found two ways to cook pork in a way that my 2 year old will also eat as she is still very much at the stage where anything remotely chewy gets spat out. 

The first is to slow cook it in some stock and spices for 8 hours which results in soft and juicy meat that you can shred with a fork. Add some barbecue sauce and you have lovely pulled pork that everyone in the family will enjoy, even those without a full set of teeth.

The second are these foolproof pork, spinach and ricotta meatballs. They’re simple to pull together, quick to cook and full of flavour. The addition of ricotta cheese results in tender melt in the mouth balls that children love, and of course we all love a way to get more spinach into their diet.  

You can use either minced pork or sausage meat, both work equally well. Personally I prefer to use pure minced pork when it’s available so that I can control the amount of seasoning. If you do use sausage meat, you can follow the recipe below exactly but won’t need to add any extra salt and pepper. 

The pork meat balls can be served traditionally with spaghetti and tomato sauce (the recipe for my simple, versatile, homemade tomato sauce is at the bottom of the page) and are also delicious stuffed into mushrooms, red bell peppers or large tomatoes. 

This recipe makes enough for 12-15 balls, and I always find I have some left over to freeze.

Ingredients.

  • 500g minced pork or sausage meat
  • 80g fresh spinach
  • 35g breadcrumbs (shop bought is fine)
  • 1 egg
  • 70g Ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced 
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried sage, rosemary or thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method.

*If you are wanting to cook the mixture straight away, turn your oven on to 200°C*

  1. First of all, wilt the spinach in a pan with an inch depth of boiling water for a few minutes, then drain and set aside. 
  2. Add a little olive oil to a frying pan and add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook on a low-medium heat for 5 minutes until the onion has softened and just started to colour.
  3. Add the garlic to the onion, cook for 1 minute more then remove from the heat. 
  4. Whilst the spinach and onions are cooling a little, in a large bowl mix together the pork/sausage, ricotta, egg, breadcrumbs, sage and seasoning. Tip: Don’t over mix as it will toughen up the meat.
  5. Once the spinach has cooled, squeeze out the excess liquid then chop.
  6. Add the spinach, onions and garlic to the pork mixture and combine well but gently. The mixture should feel moist but will form into balls without falling apart. Tip: If the mixture is too wet, add breadcrumbs. If it feels dry, add more ricotta cheese. *You can use the mixture immediately, or store covered in the fridge for whenever you need it.*
  7. IF YOU ARE MAKING MEATBALLS; Using your hands form the mixture into balls that are about 2cm in diameter.
  8. In the same pan you used to cook the onions, add a little more olive oil and fry the meatballs for a few minutes on a medium-high heat until they are browned on all sides. 
  9. Transfer the balls on to a lined baking sheet and cook in your preheated oven for 10 minutes. 
  10. IF YOU ARE USING THE MIXTURE TO STUFF INTO MUSHROOMS, PEPPERS OR TOMATOES; Prepare your vegetables for stuffing, then drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven for around 15 minutes (depending on the vegetable) until it is soft, and almost cooked. Stuff with the pork mix and pop back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes

Bonus recipe- Homemade tomato sauce.

This is a basic tomato sauce that is super versatile. You can use it simply as it is with pasta or rice, add minced beef and veggies for a quick cheats bolognaise, add ricotta cheese to it as I do to serve with the pork meatballs, and even as a pizza sauce. I always keep some in the freezer ready to go. 

Ingredients.

  • ½ an onion, diced
  • 3 tbsps good olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or finely chopped
  • 2 400ml cans chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsps dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method.

  1. Pour the oil into a saucepan then add the onion and cook on a low-medium heat with a pinch of salt until they are soft. Tip; Don’t rush this part, the softened onions bring a depth and sweetness to the finished sauce.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more, then add the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Put a lid on the pan, and cook on very low for at least 45 minutes, but preferably an hour.

Bon appetit!

I’d love to hear from you and see pictures of your pork, spinach and ricotta meatballs, please join me on Instagram or email me!

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