Ricotta Meatballs with Polenta
by Clodagh McKenna from Clodagh’s Weeknight Kitchen (Kyle Books)
This is the traditional way that they make meatballs in Sicily. I mix together minced pork and ricotta with the ground beef – the pork brings flavour and juiciness and the ricotta brings a lovely lightness. I serve them with polenta as they do during the colder months in Italy, but you could use spaghetti. This is a great freezer recipe, so make double and you can store it away. It’s nice to serve a green vegetable alongside to lighten the dish; I use cavolo nero but you could choose purple sprouting broccoli, shredded cabbage or a green salad.
200g (7oz) minced beef
200g (7oz) minced pork
200g (7oz) ricotta cheese
2 onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
80g (2¾oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
40g (1½oz) fresh fine breadcrumbs
1 medium free-range egg, beaten
75g (2½oz) polenta
1–2 tablespoons olive oil
50g (1¾oz) salted butter, plus 1 tablespoon (optional)
400g (14oz) cavolo nero, roughly chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE ROSEMARY TOMATO SAUCE
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
400g (14oz) can cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato purée
1. Place the beef, pork, ricotta, onions, garlic, rosemary, Parmesan, breadcrumbs and beaten egg in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Using your hands, shape into 30 meatballs, and transfer to a plate. Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge for 1 hour to set so that they don’t crumble during cooking. You can also leave the meatballs in the fridge for up to
2. 3 days or freeze them for up to a month until you are ready to cook them.
3. While the meatballs are chilling, make the rosemary tomato sauce. Place a saucepan over a low heat and add the oil, then stir in the onion, garlic and rosemary and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tomato purée, season with salt and pepper and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Next, get the polenta cooking. Pour 600ml (20fl oz) water into a saucepan over a medium heat and season with salt and pepper. Once the water has come to the boil, whisk in the polenta. Reduce the heat, cover and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Once it has cooked, stir in a tablespoon of olive oil or butter.
5. Now back to the meatballs. Place a frying pan over a medium heat and pour in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add the meatballs and brown on all sides. Then spoon the meatballs into the tomato rosemary sauce and cook for 15 minutes.
6. Place the cavolo nero in a pan over a medium heat with the butter and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, turning the leaves with tongs so they cook evenly.
7. Divide the polenta between four warmed bowls, followed by the meatballs, an extra spoonful of the rosemary tomato sauce and the cavolo nero. Serve.