Tender garlic-infused meatballs in easy homemade tomato sauce served over creamy mozzarella polenta.
The best kind of comfort food.
The recipe starts with making the sauce. Homemade tomato sauce (we just call it “sawce”) begins with garlic and onion, like most of my recipes, then tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and Italian seasoning.
While that gets to cooking you work on the meatballs.
The meatballs are made with ground beef, garlic, fresh parsley, Italian seasoning, a little Parmesan, bread crumbs and an egg to bind it all together.
I always mix my meatballs with a fork because I believe it keeps them light and tender.
They’re baked and added to the sauce to simmer away and lend flavor to each other. Then it’s on to the polenta. . .
If you never cooked polenta before don’t be intimidated! It’s as easy as whisking dry polenta into boiling water and then giving it time to cook.
Make sure to add the dry polenta slowly while continuously whisking or it will be lumpy. It also has a tendency to spit and sputter so watch out – usually it means you have the heat on too high so turn it down a little.
Once the polenta is cooked a pat of butter and milk is stirred in followed by shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
It’s mild, creamy and dreamy. Soft and fluffy, if you whisked it well. Absolutely perfect with the acidity of the sauce and the savory denseness of the meatballs.
The perfect cold-weather Sunday meal.
Warming from the inside out and the outside in. Cozy.
You won’t even miss the spaghetti!
- olive oil
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- sea or kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 (6
ounce) can tomato paste
- 1 (28
ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, crushed between fingertips
- 1 + ¼ pounds 80 - 85% ground beef
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
- ¼ teaspoon sea or kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup long cooking polenta
- 1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ to ½ cup milk
- 1 + ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- In a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed saucepan heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat and add the onions and garlic with a dash or two of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often until softened about 10 minutes.
- Add the bay leaf and tomato paste, stir it into the onions and cook a minute or two.
- Stir in the crushed tomatoes, ½ cup water, the Italian seasoning, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
- Turn the heat up and bring to a simmer. Stir often.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet with olive oil.
- Add all the meatball ingredients to a large mixing bowl and combine with a fork.
- Scoop up with a ¼ cup measure and roll into balls. Set on baking sheet, not touching.
- Bake 12 minutes. Add them to the sauce. Simmer 25 - 30 minutes.
- Taste and season the sauce with more salt and pepper if needed. If the sauce seems too thick mix a little more water into it.
- Add 5 cups water to a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Add the salt and slowly whisk in the polenta a little at a time so it doesn't get lumpy - turn down the heat some so it doesn't spit and sputter at you.
- Turn the heat all the way down to low and whisk for a minute or two.
- Put a lid on the pot and let it cook 30 minutes, stirring well every five minutes.
- Once the 30 minutes are up stir in the butter and milk - as much as needed to thin it out.
- Stir in the mozzarella cheese a handful at a time. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Remove from heat.
- Spoon some of the polenta into a bowl, top with meatballs and sauce (remove the bay leaf and discard) and more Parmesan cheese.