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Meatballs with Tomato Ragu and Creamy Polenta

Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

 

Hands-on time 1 hr, 20 mins
Total time 2 hrs, 35 mins
Yield Makes 6 to 8 servings
Baking the meatballs sets their shape so they'll stay whole when simmered in the tomato sauce.

Ingredients

  • MEATBALLS
  • 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
  • RAGU
  • 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
  • POLENTA
  • 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

How to Make It

  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.