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Photo Credit: Elizabeth Newman

Ricotta Orzo Meatballs

Orzo takes the place of breadcrumbs in these beef meatballs. As they cook, the orzo absorbs the sauce, adding even more flavor to this already tasty dish.


Ricotta Orzo Meatballs

Prep Time

10 minutes

Cook Time

15 minutes




Giada De Laurentiis

Image of Ricotta Orzo Meatballs


  • 1 large or 2 small shallots (minced)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 pound ground chuck (20 percent fat)
  • ¼ cup orzo pasta
  • ½ cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves (chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish)
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 23.5-ounce jar store-bought marinara
  • Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  1. Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the shallots, garlic, egg, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the meat, orzo, ricotta, and basil. Add the water, salt, and pepper and mix well.
  3. Bring the marinara to a simmer in a shallow 12-inch skillet. Form the meat mixture into heaping 1 tablespoon balls. Drop the meatballs into the simmering sauce. Cover the pot and allow them to simmer for 15 minutes. Serve 3 to 4 meatballs per person topped with shaved parm and garnished with fresh basil leaves.

6 reviews & comments

  • Author's avatar image

    This recipe was amazing! I was a bit skeptical on the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg but wow, the flavor profile is out of this world! These are meaty little flavor bombs waiting to go off once you bite down. The substitution I made was acini di pepe for the orzo (I looked in two stores and could not find orzo pasta for some odd reason). Next time I make these again, I’ll be sure to go with orzo and see how much a difference it makes. Loved the recipe. Thank you!

  • Author's avatar image
    Jennifer Anthony

    I had some leftover ricotta and was searching for something to do with it- these were really good and will make again. ALMOST as good as the smoked mozzarella meatballs (bucatini All'Amatriciana) which are the most fabulous I have ever made.

  • Author's avatar image
    Olga Bentley

    Orzo takes the place of breadcrumbs in these beef meatballs. As they cook, the orzo absorbs the sauce, adding even more flavor to this already tasty dish.

  • Author's avatar image
    Nancy Bennett

    My friend turned me on to this WONDERFUL recipe!!! I will NEVER make meatballs any.other.way!!!! She told me they were better the next day….and THEY ARE!!! I will be following your other recipes~~

  • Author's avatar image
    Lizette Navarre

    This may sound silly, but do you add cooked orzo to the mixture or dry?

  • Author's avatar image
    Amy Heflinger

    I have to say this recipe is amazing on so many levels! I made it for dinner tonight after work and it was incredibly quick, easy and used ingredients I always have. My boyfriend, who has a specific Italian restaurant sauce/meatball that has always been his favorite, told me this meal was by far his new favorite! The cinnamon creates the best flavor in both the meatballs and the sauce and the meatballs are light and tender from the ricotta. This is going to be my go-to recipe for meatballs. Thank you so much, Giada!

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