Experience the melt-in-your-mouth magic of vegetarian zucchini meatballs, expertly made with ricotta and parmesan cheese and deliciously topped with warm tomato sauce. This easy zucchini recipe is the perfect solution for utilizing your summer zucchini harvest!
Delicious Vegetarian Zucchini Meatballs
Also known as Polpette di zucchine e ricotta, these vegetarian zucchini meatballs pack a punch of flavor that’s so good and irresistible. Prepared with zucchini and ricotta, they are a light treat that combine health and indulgence. Made from freshly grated zucchini, these “meatballs” offer a wonderful way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet. The zucchini lends a light, delicate flavor to the meatballs while ensuring they remain moist and tender.
The addition of ricotta cheese, an Italian whey cheese, has a soft texture and slightly sweet, creamy flavor that beautifully complements the zucchini. It provides the meatballs with a richer, smoother consistency and adds a delicious creaminess.
Why I Love This Zucchini Recipe
- Vegetarian-Friendly: This recipe offers a fantastic vegetarian alternative to traditional meatballs, making it a great choice for those who are vegetarians or simply looking to reduce their meat consumption.
- Healthy and Nutritious: Zucchini is low in calories but high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making these meatballs a nutritious choice.
- Versatile: These vegetarian zucchini meatballs can be served in various ways – over pasta, on a sub for a vegetarian meatball sandwich, or even by themselves as a hearty appetizer or snack.
- Seasonal and Sustainable: Using seasonal produce like zucchini not only ensures the dish tastes its best, but it’s also a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly choice.
How To Make Zucchini Meatballs
- Grate zucchini and onions using a box grater or food processor. Mix in garlic.
- Bundle grated veggies in a cheesecloth or paper towel, twist and squeeze to remove excess water, then set aside.
- In a bowl, mix ricotta, parmesan, egg, panko crumbs, seasoned salt, black pepper, Italian Seasoning, and basil. Add the drained zucchini mixture, mix well.
- Form the mix into 12 golf-ball sized meatballs.
- Preheat the broiler. Heat an inch of oil in a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat.
- Cook the “meatballs” in batches in the skillet for about 5 minutes, until browned on all sides. Transfer them to a paper towel lined plate.
- Once all the meatballs are cooked, place them back in the skillet, pour tomato sauce over, and broil for 4-5 minutes until the sauce is bubbly and meatballs are fully cooked.
- Serve the meatballs over whole wheat pasta, garnished with freshly grated parmesan and chopped basil.
Tips and Swaps for Zucchini Meatballs
- Water Content: Zucchini has a high water content. To ensure your meatballs don’t become soggy, drain the zucchini well after grating. Use a clean dish towel or cheesecloth and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
- Cheese Swap: If you can’t find ricotta or prefer a different cheese, you can substitute with cottage cheese. It has a similar texture and will still lend a nice creaminess to the meatballs.
- Bread Crumbs: The recipe calls for panko breadcrumbs, but you can also use regular breadcrumbs if that’s what you have on hand. If you’re looking for a gluten-free option, almond meal could work as well.
- Frying Oil: If you’re not a fan of coconut oil, you can use other high-heat oils such as canola oil or avocado oil.
- Serving Options: While these meatballs are delicious with pasta, they’re also great with my recipe for spaghetti squash for a low-carb option, or you could serve them with a side of polenta, risotto, steamed vegetables, or a fresh salad.
- Freezing: If you have leftovers, these meatballs freeze well. Simply place them in a freezer-safe container. They can be reheated in the oven or microwave when you’re ready to serve them again.
Thus, embrace the joy of this magical green veggie, complemented by the bliss of cheese, onions, garlic, herbs, and seasonings. This array of ingredients ensures we make good food choices without compromising taste.
More Zucchini Recipes
- Creamy Ricotta Zucchini Noodles
- Quinoa Zucchini Fritters
- Cheesy Zucchini Lasagna Rolls
- Apple Zucchini Bread
- Cheesy Bacon and Corn Stuffed Zucchini
Ricotta Zucchini Meatballs Recipe
- 3 zucchini, grated
- 1 small yellow onion, grated
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ½ cup fat free ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan, plus more for garnish
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
- coconut oil for frying, you can also use vegetable oil
- 2 to 3 cups tomato/pasta sauce
- Grate the zucchini and onions on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor.
- Place in a large bowl and stir in the garlic; mix until everything is well combined.
- Transfer the zucchini mixture to a large sheet of paper towel or cheesecloth; wrap up the zucchini mixture and twist it tightly into a ball. Squeeze the ball over the sink or a bowl to catch all the water.
- Unravel the cheesecloth and set the zucchini mixture aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, parmesan, egg, panko crumbs, seasoned salt, black pepper, Italian Seasoning, and basil; stir until everything is well combined.
- Add the zucchini mixture to the ricotta mixture and continue to mix until thoroughly incorporated.
- Shape the mixture into 12 golf-ball sized meatballs.
- Preheat the broiler.
- Add an inch of oil to a cast iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
- In batches, add the "meatballs" to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes, occasionally turning until browned on all sides. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Once all the meatballs are done, add them back to the skillet and pour tomato sauce over them.
- Broil for 4 to 5 minutes or until the sauce is warm and bubbly and the meatballs are completely cooked through.
- Remove from oven and let stand a couple of minutes.
- Garnish with freshly grated parmesan and chopped fresh basil.
- Thoroughly drain zucchini after grating to prevent soggy meatballs.
- Cottage cheese can be used if ricotta is unavailable.
- Breadcrumbs: Regular breadcrumbs or almond meal (for a gluten-free option) can replace panko breadcrumbs.
- Oil Choice: Canola or avocado oil can be alternatives to coconut oil.
- Freezing: Leftovers can be frozen and reheated in the oven or microwave.
- To lower the sodium content, use part-skim ricotta, half the seasoned salt, low-sodium panko crumbs, and no-salt tomato sauce.
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.