Monday, February 15, 2010

Meatballs in Sauce with Creamy Polenta

This was pretty much amazing. I wanted to make polenta with meatballs and decided to make it this week...last week. Then, TODAY, Pioneer Woman posted a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs. So, I decided to base my recipe off of hers because everything she does is amazing. I didn't follow hers exactly, but I adjusted the recipe below to what I actually did.

These meatballs are SO good. The sauce (which is really quite a bit different from hers), was also soooooooo goood.

And this is a great little polenta recipe. I have some polenta directly from Italy that Scot brought back for me last summer. It is a little finer than regular corn meal. And it is just delicious.

The trick to good meatballs, from my experience of making a lot of bad ones, is. Ok, I need a new sentence. First, the meatballs can't be too big. The diameter should be 1-1.5 inches. Any bigger and they won't cook all the way through. Second, you need to brown them first for a few minutes on each side. Then, finish cooking them in some sort of a sauce. Then, you need to mix the ground meat with various things to keep them moist...bread crumbs, cheese, herbs, etc. Eggs to bind them. But, I have done all that plenty of times and still had failure. So, I think the first two things are key.

Polenta hardens when it cools. So, this polenta recipe is just enough for 2-3 servings (/us for dinner). I made some pasta to package up with the leftover sauce and meatballs. You could also just save the meatballs for meatball subs. You could also make a double batch of polenta. Make a roll of the leftover polenta (in plastic how you would make an herb butter). After it sets up in the refrigerator, slice it into disks, and grill it. Then, you could serve the grilled polenta with the leftover sauce and meatballs, or something else. Lots of options.

Meatballs and Marinara Sauce
adapted from Pioneer Woman

3/4 pounds Ground Beef
3/4 pounds Ground Pork
3/4 cups Fine Bread Crumbs
2 whole Eggs
3/4 cups Freshly Grated Parmesan
1/4 cups Flat-leaf Parsley, Minced
1/4 teaspoons Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Splash Of Milk
1/2 cups Olive Oil

1 whole Yellow Onion, peeled
2 whole (28-ounce) Can Whole Tomatoes
1/4 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon Sugar
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/4 cups Flat-leaf Parsley, Minced
8 whole Fresh Basil Leaves, Chiffonade (optional)

Start sauce. Put all the ingredients for the sauce except the fresh herbs (parsley and basil) in a Dutch oven or large pot. Cook for about 45 minutes (or longer…the longer, the better), mashing up the tomatoes with a potato masher or back of the spoon as they cook. Add chopped parsley after sauce has become less chunky and more saucy.

To make the meatballs, combine meat, garlic, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, eggs, salt, pepper, parsley, and a splash of milk in a mixing bowl. Mix together well with hands. Roll into 25 1 1/2-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. Place cookie sheet into the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up.

To brown the meatballs, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs 8 at a time, turning to brown. Once browned on both sides, put in marinara sauce. Continue until all the meatballs are browned and in sauce. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring very gently a couple of times during the simmer.

Just before serving, stir in basil if using.

Serve over polenta (recipe below). Sprinkle with extra Parmesan.


2 cups water or chicken stock
3/4 cups finely ground cornmeal or polenta
1/8 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1.5 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch kosher salt

In a large saucepan bring the chicken stock to a slow simmer. Quickly whisk the cornmeal into the stock and lower the temperature to keep it from splattering. Stir in the cream, Parmesan, butter, and salt. Turn off the heat and keep in a warm place until the meatballs are ready.

(Servings: 6 for sauce and meatballs, 2-3 for polenta, Prep time: 45 min., Cook time: 75 min., Difficulty: Easy)


  1. This looks wonderful, I love the fact that you listed some great ideas for leftovers. Beautiful picture.

  2. Being part Italian, I grew up eating polenta with and without sauce, but always with mozzarella and is one of my favorite comfort foods! LUV it!! Thank you for the recipe.

  3. I absolutely love polenta as a bed for saucy concoctions with vegetables and beans... or meatballs!

  4. Polenta is one of my favorite foods! I recently made a recipe with polenta, vegetables and beans. So good. Enjoyed visting your blog. I signed up to follow your cooking adventures.

  5. I never thought to make polenta with meatballs, but now that you show this here, I want it now! hahaha. mmmm.

  6. i made this tonight for a group of boys coming over for the football game. it's not really football food but i didn't care and they inhaled it. you're right, those meatballs are magical.