By Jaqueline De Bono

Ricotta balls in tomato sauce is a Calabrian recipe that originated among the region’s poorer farming and peasant population, particularly, in the mountainous Sila area. Like so many of Italy’s traditional recipes, this is a combination of simple staple ingredients. However, in the past this was also a dish made on special occasions, such as carnival, by people for whom meat was a luxury. These ricotta balls are delicious with pasta or without! You can also make extra and fry or bake them!


For the ricotta balls:

  • 500 g ricotta (1lb) cow or sheep milk ricotta
  • 150 g breadcrumbs (5-6oz) or 4 thick slices of stale bread
  • 30 g Parmigiano Reggiano (1oz) for vegetarians use hard cheese without animal rennet
  • 30 g Pecorino cheese (1oz) or use 60g (2oz) of only one cheese if you don’t have both
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1-2 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 handful fresh parsley finely chopped

For tomato sauce:

  • 600 g tomato passata (1.3lbs) or half cherry tomatoes and half passata. Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves or quarters
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled
  • Salt for pasta and to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • 400 g short mafaldine/mafalde pasta (14oz) or fusilli, penne or paccheri

Make the ricotta balls

  1. If using stale bread slices remove the crusts and blend in a food processor to make breadcrumbs. Drain the ricotta really well and then put it in a bowl and mash with a fork.
  2. Add the grated cheese and the breadcrumbs. Mix well.
  3. Add the eggs, garlic and chopped parsley mix again until you have a soft homogeneous dough. If it seems dry add a little milk. If it seems too wet, add more breadcrumbs.
  4. Form the dough into balls. The size depends on preference. Ours were about the size of a golf ball.

Make the tomato sauce

  1. Cook the garlic cloves in olive oil until they start to soften. Add the halved cherry tomatoes.
  2. Turn down the heat and simmer until they are soft too.
  3. Add the passata and continue simmering for 10 minutes.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta

  1. While the sauce is simmering, put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
  2. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring to the boil again.
  3. Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet.
  4. When the pasta is ready drain it and put it back into the pot.
  5. Add some tomato sauce to the pasta and mix well.

Finish the dish!


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