Baking the meatballs sets their shape so they'll stay whole when simmered in the tomato sauce.
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
How to Make It
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.
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.
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.
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.
Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and Hog & Hominy, East Memphis, TN
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this was a lot of work and sooo not worth it. Followed recipe exactly. Meatballs were not good, ragu was ok at best and watery. Polenta was delicious but that's not the dish. Definitely would not make again and glad it was just my family and not made for company.
This turned out great! Much better than I expected. To save time, I used frozen meatballs from Sam's Club. I'm sure the ones in the recipe would be good, but in a time crunch, the frozen ones worked well. I substituted a cup of red grape juice and one TBSP of red wine vinegar for the cup of red wine. Will make again for sure!