The Surprising Ingredients In Giada De Laurentiis' Meatballs

Giada De Laurentiis strikes again. With over a dozen meatball-centric recipes on her website, you'd think she had already taught the world everything she knows about this staple of Italian cuisine. But she's back at it, with her nose to the meat grinder, and she's come up with a few ingredients you never would have thought to include in your next batch of meatballs.

The appropriately named Ricotta and Cinnamon Meatballs are already surprising. Cinnamon? In meatballs? While there is no shortage of cinnamon-inspired sweets over the holiday season, from cinnamon rolls to Mexican wedding cookies, the spice is often overlooked for more savory recipes. But, argues De Laurentiis through her Giadzy Instagram account, why not add a little extra warmth to your meatballs this winter with that nutty, earthy spice? According to Healthline, cinnamon was once so rare and valuable that it was considered a gift fit for kings. And if it's good enough for them (and Giada), it's good enough for us.

The surprising finishing touches for a mighty meatball

When it comes to modern day royalty, the addition of ricotta in these meatballs is yet another reason that De Laurentiis is the queen (ahem, regina) of Italian cooking in America. Ricotta is that soft, whey cheese that you often see in lasagna, or perhaps hidden in a stack of lemon-y pancakes (like the tasty ones from Donal Skehan). The smooth cheese adds a fluffiness to the meatballs, giving them a creamy flavor without weighing them down.

But there is one more surprising addition to our Meatball Maven's daring dish: orzo. Taking the place of breadcrumbs, De Laurentiis tosses a quarter cup of this tiny, rice-like pasta into her meatball mix as well. The pasta absorbs whatever sauce you make (or buy) to cook with, making your meatballs flavorful enough to eat on their own. Or, place them atop a pile of your own favorite pasta, because if there's one thing that pairs perfectly with pasta-laden meatballs, it's more pasta. And while you're pairing, Food & Wine suggests a spicy Chianti, to bring out the spice in your mighty meatballs. Grazie, Giada!