Polenta and Meatballs

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polenta and meatballs recipe: polenta and meatballs on a plate with a fork
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

Spaghetti and meatballs? Yawn. It’s time to give your weeknight dinner staple a much-needed makeover. Enter hearty polenta and meatballs, a classy (but no less loveable) twist on an old favorite. It’s just as easy to make on those busy, back-to-school nights but won’t have everyone at the table whining about repeats.

Psst: If you’ve been living under the assumption that making polenta is best left to the pros, think again. You don’t have to stir it constantly for hours, but you’ll want to whisk it occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Should you leave the kitchen to catch up on Virgin River? It can wait 20 minutes, promise.



1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 sweet onion, fined chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

½ cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1 large egg

1 pound ground beef

¾ cup panko bread crumbs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2½ cups jarred marinara sauce


1 cup whole milk

1 cup polenta (not instant)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Make the meatballs: In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute more. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the cooled onion mixture with the Parmesan, parsley, oregano, egg and ground beef; mix until combined. Add the bread crumbs, season with salt and pepper and mix again.

3. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease it generously with nonstick cooking spray.

4. Using a spoon, scoop the meat mixture into 1-inch balls and arrange them evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the meatballs are fully cooked, 20 to 25 minutes. Pour the marinara sauce over the meatballs, toss to coat and then return the pan to the oven until the sauce is bubbly, 8 to 10 minutes more.

5. Make the polenta: Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk and 3 cups water to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk in the polenta and cook, whisking occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the polenta absorbs all of the liquid, 15 to 20 minutes.

7. Divide the polenta among four plates and spoon the meatballs on top. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan.

Nutrition Facts
  • Meatballs

  • 488 calories

  • 30g fat

  • 28g carbs

  • 25g protein

  • 14g sugars

  • Polenta

  • 259 calories

  • 11g fat

  • 34g carbs

  • 5g protein

  • 4g sugars

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Note: The information shown is Edamam's estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.

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