Meatballs with spontaneous herbs and the home kitchen

Meatballs made with spontaneous herbs are a culinary tribute to my dear cooks and blog readers. Together, we offer shelter from oblivion to forgotten recipes and stories.

The dishes cooked with love by our grandmothers and mothers, those we preserve a beautiful memory. The stories have always been part of the home kitchen, like the ingredients.

Today we cook, almost always, by ourselves. But it used to be different.
In the kitchen, there were all the women of the family, of every generation: grandmothers, mothers, daughters, daughters-in-law. The kitchen was the place for confidence, whispered secrets, and laughter. Even songs hummed while cooking.

Spontaneous herbs

The spontaneous herbs.

Wild spinach, chicory and rocket, amaranth, nettles, bladder campion, dandelion.
These are some of the spontaneous herbs that I remember grandma used to cook with whenever we came back from the countryside.

Back in the days, herbs were picked in the ditches that separated fields or along white country roads.

Or in the garden, many of them are edible but weedy plants.

Home cooks knew and used them all, in the kitchen or as natural medicines.

They had the advantage of not costing anything and of growing abundantly just outside the door of the house. Those who lived in the countryside did not do their shopping in the store.

Meatballs with spontaneous herbs

Old fashioned home cooking.

Spontaneous and aromatic herbs were used in many different ways: as a filling for pasta and crescioni Romagnoli. The one with herbs has always been my favorite and, perhaps, also the most typical and traditional one.

Home cooks with wild herbs cooked soups, side dishes, and egg dishes. They used them to give flavor to a savory pie or make meatballs.

The meat was a delicacy, and until a few decades ago, it was eaten sparingly in the homes of the gentry even.

Home cooks had or needed to have more imagination.

Likewise, the women of Romagna knew how to use what they had in their hands, creating little culinary masterpieces and making the most of the ingredients available. Even the simplest ones, such as wild herbs.

Today, I don’t suggest picking herbs you find in gardens or across fields on the outskirts of town. There are many sources of contamination, and it’s best to buy them from someone who grows or harvests this product safe from elements that could compromise their use, even in the face of thorough washing.

Look for a farm or farmer’s market near you.

Ricotta and herbs meatballs

The return of spontaneous herbs in the countryside and in the kitchen.

Recently, farmers and consumers are showing a renewed interest in organic wild and aromatic herbs.

In my somewhat peasant heart of a city girl who, until a few years ago, had a vegetable garden and orchard and organized garden classes for urban farmers, I feel the call to the land again.

And of the slow time spent cleaning, tilling, and planting while waiting for harvest time. Next to seasonal vegetables and fruits, I would like to grow wild plants and edible flowers using natural methods. Which is the only way I conceive of a vegetable garden.

At the moment, I’m satisfied with buying at farmers’ markets or from trusted farmers.

To make these meatballs, I used dandelion, bladder campion or Bubbolini, and wild chicory. You use whatever spontaneous herbs you prefer.

And if you can’t find wild ones, fall back on spinach and arugula.
Don’t forget the arugula! Spontaneous herbs often have a spicy flavor that the rocket will add to the meatballs.

The meatballs cook in a tomato sauce that starts with a chopped carrot, celery, and onion soffritto. I also put in some guanciale, not pancetta, which adds a smoky note.

Buona cucina

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Meatballs with spontaneous herbs

Meatballs with spontaneous herbs recipe

serves 4
List of the Ingredients

cow ricotta cheese, 300g
breadcrumbs, 40g
grated parmesan cheese, 25g
wild chicory, 100g
dandelion, 50g
bladder campion, 50g
1 egg
a pinch of salt

tomato sauce
passata di pomodoro, 200g
celery, 1 rib
carrot, 1
white onion, 1 small
bacon, 100g
milk, 3 tablespoons
water, 100ml
salt and olive oil to taste


Wash the herbs and boil them in unsalted water for 20 minutes.

Turn off, drain, let cool and squeeze the herbs well.

Put the ricotta in a colander and let it lose its liquid.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce in which the meatballs will cook.

Wash and clean the carrot, celery, and onion and finely chop the vegetables.

Put the vegetables to make soffritto in a pan, add a pinch of salt and olive oil and sauté over low heat for a few minutes before adding, if you wish, the finely chopped guanciale.

Cook for a few minutes on medium-low heat, add the sauce, water, oil, and salt if you like, and wait a few min before adding the milk. Stir and let hum on low heat for 10-15 minutes.

Back to the meatballs.

Squeeze the herbs well. And cut with a knife.

In a dish, mash ricotta cheese with a fork.

In a bowl, combine ricotta cheese, herbs, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, a pinch of salt, and the egg.

Mix first with a fork and then with your hands.

Let the meatball mixture rest for 10 minutes.

Then form equal-sized meatballs using a spoon to get the size. I make 20 of them.

Place the meatballs in the sauce and cook uncovered for 10-12 minutes.

Halfway through cooking, gently turn them over.

Don’t forget the bread.
Enjoy and bon appetit (although etiquette dictates that you shouldn’t say that).

Then form equal-sized meatballs using a spoon to get the size. I make 20 of them.



Ricotta meatballs

Ricotta meatballs


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