Dishing Up the Dirt

Pork & Ricotta Meatballs with Roasted Garden Tomato Sauce

This recipe for Pork & Ricotta Meatballs with Roasted Garden Tomato Sauce is from the pages of the newly released cookbook Five Mary’s Ranch Raised book by Mary Heffernan. I’m sharing this recipe with Mary’s permission but I highly, HIGHLY recommend you all pick up a copy of your own. This book is not only beautiful, but tells the story of how Mary and her husband Brian uprooted their comfortable lives in Silicon Valley, CA and moved their family (four daughters in the mix) up to the mountains of Northern California to set up and operate a large cattle ranch (with the help of Mary’s brother-in-law who is a fifth generation cattle rancher) It’s a fun read with beautiful photographs and mouth watering recipes to boot. This book is for anyone who loves traditional ranch fair, easy and accessible recipes with ingredients you most likely already have on hand. In a time when we’re all a little uneasy with the heaviness and uncertainty of our lives and the state of the world, this is a refreshing book that brings things back to basics. All and all,  Mary Heffernan knocks this one out of the park! Beautiful, simple, down home recipes that make you hungry for hard work, dirty boots and a warm meal and simple cocktail at the end of a long day. Congratulations Mary Heffernan on your stunning new book! I hope you all enjoy this simple meatball recipe as much as we did. The garden tomato sauce is to die for and a must make sauce before tomato season is over.


Pork & Ricotta Meatballs with Roasted Garden Tomato Sauce

Prep Time: 30 minutes    Cook Time: 1 hour    Serves: 6

For the Tomato Sauce 
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • kosher salt
  • 6 large loves of garlic, whole and unpeeled
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar plus more if needed
For the Meatballs
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan (or another hard salty cheese)
  • 1/2 of a small yellow or red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  •  chopped fresh basil leaves for garnish


  1. To make the tomato sauce, position two oven racks evenly in the oven and preheat it to 400F. Brush two large rimmed baking sheets with olive oil. Spread the chopped tomatoes in an even layer, dividing them between the trays.  Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt. Wedge the garlic cloves between the tomatoes on the two trays and give everything a good toss.  Cook until the tomatoes are fragrant and starting to brown, about 45 minutes, rotating the two sheets once or twice while cooking. Check the tomatoes every so often to make sure they don't burn. If they start browning too quickly, rotate them on the sheet.
  2. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic out of their skins (discard the skins) into a blender or food processor. In batches, transfer the tomatoes to the blender and blend until smooth. (No need to discard the skin or seeds of the tomatoes, they add texture and flavor) Pour the sauce into a large saucepan and stir in the balsamic vinegar and a hefty pinch of salt. Set aside.
  3. To make the meatballs, increase the oven temp to 450F. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with oil. In a large bowl add the pork, beef, ricotta, parmesan, onion, egg, parsley, salt and pepper and mix well with your hands. Shape into meatballs, each about 2 inches in diameter. You should have about 28 meatballs. Space the meatballs evenly on the baking sheet and bake until cooked through and well browned on one side, about 20 minutes.
  4. Using a spatula loosen the meatballs from the pan and add them to the sauce. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wide serving bowl and garnish with more Parmesan cheese and basil.


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One thought on “Pork & Ricotta Meatballs with Roasted Garden Tomato Sauce

  1. mary v fix says:

    I have been making this sauce for years. So sweet and easy. You can make this as tomatoes come out of garden. I add fresh basil to the processor. then freeze it. Sometimes so thick I put in ice cube trays freeze add to sauce as paste.

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