Polenta & Meatballs

Serves 4-6

Since the polenta and the tomato sauce will basically cook themselves once you’ve got them started, I’ve broken the recipe into three steps to make the best use of your time: first the polenta, then the sauce, and finally the meatballs.


2 cups polenta/corn meal

10 cups water

1 tsp salt

2 Tb butter

Since it takes the longest, start the polenta first. Bring the water to a boil and add the polenta by whisking it into the water briskly to avoid lumps. Add 1 tsp of salt and stir the polenta frequently, until it starts to thicken and bubble. Lower the heat to low, stirring occasionally, until it is thick and pulls away from the sides of the pot, about 50 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the butter, add pepper and more salt, to taste. A nice variation is to stir in a last minute addition of some chopped parsley and/or a handful of grated Parmesan which adds a more interesting dimension of flavor.

Note: Leftover polenta is delightful fried. To do this, pour the polenta into a well-oiled baking pan and smooth it out evenly, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Then cut the hardened polenta into rectangles and fry them in a few Tb of olive oil, 3-4 minutes per side. Top with marinara and a sprinkling of Parmesan, or toppings of your choice and serve.

Quick Tomato Sauce:

1 28-oz can petite diced tomatoes

1/2 small onion, finely diced

4-6 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

1 stalk celery, finely diced

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

For the sauce, sauté the onion, garlic, and celery in a Tb of olive oil over medium heat for about ten minutes until they soften. Add the canned tomatoes and the seasonings and as soon as the sauce starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low and let simmer while you make the meatballs, stirring occasionally.


1 lb ground beef

1 cup bread crumbs (or oats)

1/2 a small onion, finely diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 egg

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

1/2 tsp each dried basil and oregano

Salt and pepper

To make the meatballs, preheat the oven to 375.

Sauté the onion, garlic, and celery in a Tb of olive oil over medium heat for about ten minutes until tender and slightly golden. Allow to cool. Using your hands, mix the onions in a bowl with the ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, parmesan, and seasonings until all of the ingredients are nicely incorporated. Form the ground beef mixture into just-slightly-larger-than-golf-ball-sized meatballs; makes about 12 meatballs.

In a skillet, brown the meatballs in a small bit of olive oil over medium heat for a couple of minutes on each side. I used a cast iron skillet because it can go directly from the stove into the oven, but if you don’t have one, you can certainly transfer your browned meatballs to an oven-safe baking dish. Put the meatballs, uncovered, in the oven and bake for about 18 minutes until they reach a temperature of 160 degrees and/or are no longer pink in the middle.

To serve, arrange a circular bed of polenta on each individual plate; next create a layer of the tomato sauce, and add 2-3 meatballs, with a garnish of parmesan and/or parsley.

Polenta & Meatballs

Polenta & Meatballs

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