Meatballs with Polenta and Marinara

meatballs with polenta and marinara

Juicy meatballs are nestled on a bed of creamy polenta, all topped off with marinara sauce. A combination of pasture raised ground pork and grass fed ground beef is formed into meatballs and baked until browned and bubbling. Soft polenta acts as the perfect base, soaking up any excess marinara sauce.

meatballs with polenta and marinara

meatballs with polenta and marinara

We’ve been eating our way through our freezers (yes we have multiple). I’ve been making berry crisps, slow roasted pork belly, large pots of stock. With summer’s abundance quickly approaching, it won’t be long until it’s time to refill the freezer with this year’s bounty. I have to admit, I have trouble with this. The squirrel in me takes comfort in knowing plenty of food is stored away. The idea of an empty freezer makes me slightly anxious.
meatballs with polenta and marinara

meatballs with polenta and marinara
Our pork stocks are dwindling. For the past few years we have bought an entire pig, raised by our good friends at green fire farm. I prefer to have my pork minimally processed. This means that most of the cuts are bone-in and as is. I also opt for ground pork, as opposed to pre-made sausage. This allows me the freedom to season it to my liking and use it in delicious dishes such as these meatballs.

meatballs with polenta and marinara

Polenta is a simple yet delicious base for many a meal. Throughout university I would spend Monday evenings at my friend Lisa’s house. Her (Italian) mom would often make polenta, served with tender deer stew. I didn’t realize how quickly cornmeal could be transformed into a creamy polenta. It comes together using the same process as oatmeal, with a little extra whisking to keep it from clumping.
This recipe is easy to scale up for large groups. The sauce can be made ahead of time, and any extra can be frozen to use in pasta dishes, as a pizza sauce or combined with stock for a quick tomato soup. The meatballs can also be assembled ahead of time and placed in the fridge until you are ready to bake them.

Meatballs with Polenta and Marinara

yields: 25 – 2″ meatballs

serves: 4 people



  • 1 lb. Ground beef
  • 1 lb. Ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 medium Onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. Paparika
  • 2 Tbsp. Oat flour (I just pulse some oats in my coffee grinder or food processor – or use breadcrumbs)
  • 3/4 tsp. Chili flakes
  • 3/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Black pepper
  • 2 tsp. Oregano, dried
  • 1 tsp. Fennel seeds (I like to grind mine in a coffee grinder)
  • 1/2 cup Parsley, packed (stems removed)

Marinara Sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 4 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 – 28oz. can Tomatoes (I use whole tomatoes, but diced or crushed are also fine)
  • 1 tsp. Rosemary, dried
  • 1/2 tsp. Chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup Red wine (or 2 Tbsp. Red wine vinegar)
  • 1 tsp. Oregano, dried
  • Salt


  • 1 cup Cornmeal
  • 3 cups Water
  • 1 tsp. Salt

For the meatballs: heat oven to 400°F. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl (I use my hands for this). Form into 2″ balls and place on a parchment lined baking tray.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, rotating the tray half way, until cooked through.

For the sauce: While the meatballs are cooking make your sauce. Heat oil in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent and starting to brown, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in garlic, rosemary and chile flakes. Cook 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Stir in red wine (or red wine vinegar), reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 5 minutes, until reduced.

Add tomatoes and oregano, let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point you can puree for a smooth sauce (I use an immersion blender), or leave it chunky. Add salt to taste, 1/4 teaspoon at a time (the amount of salt needed will depend on if your tomatoes are salted or not)

For the polenta: After you rotate the meatballs, bring water to a boil in a medium or large pot. Measure out polenta, place in a bowl and stir in salt.

When water is boiling, whisk as you slowly pour in the polenta. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to whisk occasionally for 5 minutes. Place lid on pot, turn off heat and let sit for 10 minutes.

As the polenta cools it will firm up. If it becomes too thick, stir in 1/4 cup of water and reheat over medium.

To serve: spoon polenta onto plate or into bowls, top with meatballs and marinara.

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