Meatballs with Tomato Ragu and Creamy Polenta

Meatballs with Tomato Ragu and Creamy PolentaRecipe
Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller


Baking the meatballs sets their shape so they'll stay whole when simmered in the tomato sauce.


Makes 6 to 8 servings
Total time: 2 Hours, 35 Minutes

Recipe from

Southern Living

Recipe Time

Hands-on: 1 Hour, 20 Minutes
Total: 2 Hours, 35 Minutes


1 cup soft, fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 ounces thick bacon slices, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon loosely packed lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1 pound ground pork
Vegetable cooking spray
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 (28-oz.) cans whole plum tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups vegetable broth
1 (1-oz.) package fresh basil
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups uncooked polenta or grits
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter


1. Prepare Meatballs: Preheat oven to 400°. Combine first 2 ingredients in a bowl; let stand 10 minutes. Stir in egg and next 11 ingredients until blended. Add pork; combine using your hands. (Do not overmix.) Shape into 36 (1-inch) balls. Lightly grease a jelly-roll pan with cooking spray. Place meatballs in pan. Bake 10 minutes.

2. Prepare Ragu: Process onion and next 3 ingredients in a food processor 20 seconds or until finely chopped; transfer to a bowl. Process tomatoes, in batches, until smooth.

3. Sauté onion mixture in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat 17 to 20 minutes or until tender. Add wine and 1/4 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Stir in broth, basil, tomatoes, and remaining 3/4 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 35 minutes; add meatballs, and cook 10 minutes. Discard basil. Stir in lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Prepare Polenta: Bring 8 cups water and 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; gradually whisk in polenta. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes or until creamy. Remove from heat; stir in cream, cheese, and butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with ragu.