Serves a Crowd

Roasted Broccoli Pesto Spaghetti with Veal-Ricotta Meatballs

June  4, 2013
0 Ratings
  • Serves 4-6 people
Author Notes

This recipe came together the way many of my recipes do: After filling my bike basket to the brim with farmers market loot, I had to figure out how to tie all those ingredients together into something, you know, halfway cohesive. This weekend, I came home with: fresh ricotta, ground veal, purple spring onions, parsley, garlic, and broccoli. I laid it all out on the kitchen table, and got to thinking. This meal is rather green and springy, but also satisfying in a comfort food-light sort of way. It lends itself to feeding a crowd. If you like, substitute regular spaghetti for a whole wheat version. —Cristina Sciarra

What You'll Need
  • Veal and Ricotta Meatballs: (Makes 20-24 mini meatballs)
  • 3/4 cups fresh ricotta
  • 3-4 spring onions
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 pound freshly ground veal
  • freshly ground pepper
  • Roasted Broccoli Pesto:
  • 2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • kosher salt, black pepper
  • the juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 pound of spaghetti
  1. Veal and Ricotta Meatballs: (Makes 20-24 mini meatballs)
  2. Drain the ricotta, in cheese cloth if you have it, or in a fine-mesh strainer. Do this for at least 1 hour, so that the ricotta isn’t so wet.
  3. Heat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Thinly slice the spring onions, and then saute them over medium heat, with the olive oil. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  5. Wash, dry, and chop the parsley. Grate the Parmesan. Move both to a large mixing bow. Add the salt, the lemon zest, the egg, the drained ricotta, and the ground veal to the bowl. Use your hands (or a spatula) to mix everything together, until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.
  6. Roll the veal mix between your palms, forming balls about the size of a golf ball. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet, spacing them evenly, about 1-inch apart. Cook for 15-17 minutes, until the insides are no longer pink. Take the meatballs out of the oven and let them rest, tented with tin foil, for about 10 minutes.
  1. Roasted Broccoli Pesto:
  2. Heat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with a piece of foil or parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, toss together the broccoli florets, the garlic cloves, the olive oil, a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, and about 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Spread the contents of the bowl across the baking sheet, and move it to the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the florets turn bright green, and are blackened in spots.
  4. When the broccoli comes out of the oven, toss in the remaining lemon juice, lemon zest, and the Parmesan cheese. Remove the garlic cloves from their shells. Move the broccoli and garlic to the bowl of a food processor, and set it aside.
  5. --------------------------------------------
  6. To Finish: Boil the spaghetti in a large pot of well salted, boiling water, until al dente. Drain the pasta, but reserve 1.5 cups of the pasta water. Turn on the food processor, and add the reserved pasta water in a steady stream, until the broccoli pesto reaches desired consistency Now toss the broccoli pesto with the pasta, to coat. Divide the spaghetti between bowls; top with the veal meatballs. And a sprinkle of lemon zest, fresh Parmesan, and freshly grated black pepper, if you like.

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  • Cristina Sciarra
    Cristina Sciarra
  • weslyf
Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at

2 Reviews

weslyf September 25, 2015
It's not clear from this recipe what your supposed to do with the drained ricotta. I reviewed the recipe several times and it's not included in any of the assembly of the meatballs or the pesto or even the final dish. Please provide further direction on what to do with the drained ricotta. Thanks.
Cristina S. September 25, 2015
Hi weslyf. I'm sorry for the omission; I've corrected the recipe. You are meant to add the drained ricotta to the meatballs in step 4. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.