Saturday, May 18, 2024

Braised Meatballs with Polenta

This admittedly feels like a cold weather recipe, but it might still work for spring! I found it much more satisfying than the twice-baked shepherd’s pie potatoes or the creamy goat cheese mushroom gnocchi I had tried. I got the recipe from Jenny Rosenstrach’s newsletter. Obviously, the polenta won’t be as creamy the second night, but it’s just as good!

For the sauce
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pinch red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 small can tomato paste
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 15-oz. cans tomato purée (or diced tomatoes)
2 Tbsp. oregano
a few pinches fennel seeds
a small handful thyme or basil

In a Dutch oven, sauté onion and garlic and a few red pepper flakes in olive oil over medium low heat until onions are soft and just starting to turn golden. Add tomato paste and sugar and stir, mashing paste and onion mixture together, about 1-2 minutes. Fill empty tomato paste can with water and add to pot, stirring until mixed, another 1-2 minutes. Pour in tomatoes, oregano, fennel, and thyme or basil, and stir. Simmer lazily over low heat, uncovered, for as long as you want: the longer the better. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little water.

For the meatballs
2 lbs. ground beef or ground turkey (I used the latter)
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 cup shredded lactose-free parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
a few pinches fennel seeds
2 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, combine meat, breadcrumbs, eggs, parmesan, parsley, fennel, salt and pepper. Mash together with hands until thoroughly combined. Roll into balls (the size of golf balls) and set aside on a plate. When all the meatballs are shaped, add them to the sauce, and simmer, cooking over medium-low heat for at least 30 minutes. (It’s always a good idea to test one meatball to ensure doneness.)

For the polenta
4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable) or water
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup fine yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ cup freshly grated lactose-free parmesan

In a medium pot, bring the stock and salt to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over low heat. Add the cornmeal in a slow, steady stream, whisking continuously so it doesn’t clump. Continue to stir until the polenta starts pulling away from the sides of the pan, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat. Toss in the butter and cheese, and stir until both are melted.

To serve
Divide the polenta among four bowls. (If the polenta has sat for too long, it might have set — just stir in a little water to loosen.) Top with meatballs, sauce, a little more parmesan, and a drizzle of good olive oil.

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