Italian ricotta dumplings


Ricotta is an Italian cheese that is produced from the whey of cow, sheep, or buffalo milk. Ricotta simply means, re-cooked, ri-cotta. These ricotta polpette have a lightness to them and a resemblance to pillow like dumplings, I’m drooling at the very thought of them. They benefit from being cooked in a rich tomato sauce as they absorb the aroma and juice, making them incredibly plump.

I use the term dumplings, very loosely. There is no resemblance whatsoever to the much-loved British dumplings that are made with suet. These ricotta balls are light, adore and absorb flavour and are filling too, in the sauce they simple poach, so I use a wide, yet shallow sauté pan. I seriously test you to make them and resist the need to eat the entire pan full. All I say is pass me the bread!

Ricotta is an incredibly versatile cheese. In Italian cookery we use it in tarts as fillings, to make biscuits, in cakes, layered into breads and to create the famous ‘pizza bianca’.  When I can find a traditionally made Italian ricotta, I love to serve it naked, with just a pinch of salt, pepper, and a little blossom honey. Simply divine, just pass me a fork!

My mum and nonna have always loved pasta al ricotta. Drain your pasta, retain a mug of pasta water, and mix the water with ricotta to form a loose sauce, spoon through the pasta and demolish as seen fit.

Let’s talk about storing ricotta. Ricotta doesn’t freeze well, but as soon as it has been incorporated with other ingredients it becomes the perfect vessel to freeze. So, yes, these polpette freeze well if they have been cooked or poached first.

Here is my recipe, see what you think, and if you do have a go, please do let me know.

One more point to make for you before you get cooking. Ricotta from the UK holds much more moisture than traditional Italian ricotta, which tends to be much drier (in a positive way). So, please prepare the ricotta in advance. Place your ricotta into a sieve over a bowl, overnight in the fridge before you use it. The bowl will collect all the unrequired liquid, this will most definitely help when it comes to forming the balls. Just remember the wetter the ricotta, the more breadcrumbs you’ll require. The liquid that has been removed can go into your homemade pasta or bread dough.


Buona fortuna – Good luck.


Serves: 4

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes


350g ricotta, drained overnight

150g breadcrumbs, (NEVER golden)

50g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

Small bunch parsley, chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled, grated

2 eggs (100g weight)

Salt and pepper, to season, as required

Chilli flakes, as required

Extra virgin olive oil, as required

1 clove garlic, peeled, sliced

675g tomato pasatta (Cirio or Mutti)

Salt & pepper, as required

½ tsp dried oregano

200ml water

Basil leaves


  1. Tumble the drained ricotta into a bowl.
  2. Add the breadcrumbs, Parmigiano Reggiano, chopped parsley and garlic.
  3. Stir well to incorporate.
  4. Crack in the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Add a pinch of chilli (optional).
  5. Combine the mixture well and roll balls of the mix into 40g balls. Use all the mixture and set aside until required.
  6. Add a little extra virgin olive oil to a shallow, wide saucepan. Add the clove of garlic and fry over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, using the garlic to infuse the oil.
  7. Remove and discard the garlic.
  8. Add the tomato pasatta along with the water.
  9. Season with salt, pepper and the oregano then add the ricotta poleptte.
  10. Place a lid on the saucepan and over a medium heat allow the ricotta polpette to cook for 30 minutes. I prefer to use a sheet of damp baking parchment instead of a lid, you choose.
  11. Serve a few polpette with a ladle of the tomato sauce into a bowl and serve with rustic bread for dipping.