Polenta Meatballs with Quick Red Wine and Tomato Sauce

Polenta Meatballs in a Red Wine Tomato Sauce.
John Bedell
  • Yield: 6 servings


1/3cup pine nuts
1/2pound good-quality organic ground pork
1/2pound good-quality organic ground beef
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
2cloves garlic, minced
2tablespoons fennel seeds, pounded in a mortar and pestle or chopped
2tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 large handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
Maldon or other flaky salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 egg yolks
1/4cup cornmeal
Extra virgin olive oil
Cooked pasta of your choice, for serving
Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Fresh basil and parsley leaves, for garnish
Red Wine and Tomato Sauce
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 3/4cups red wine (such as merlot)
3sprigs fresh thyme
1 squeeze agave nectar
3leaves fresh basil
1clove garlic, thinly sliced
Maldon or other flaky salt
Freshly ground black pepper


1. To make the tomato sauce, place the tomatoes in a saucepan, then pour the wine into the empty can and add it to the saucepan as well. Add the thyme, agave nectar, basil, and garlic; season with salt and pepper, give it a good stir, and bring to a light simmer over medium low heat. Keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t boil or get too dry, stirring every so often, for about 30 minutes, until the tomatoes have started to break up and it has a sauce consistency.

2. To make the meatballs, in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, toast the pine nuts until evenly browned, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often so that they don’t burn. Transfer them to a mortar and pestle and grind them until slightly crushed (or simply chop them).

3. In a large bowl, combine the pine nuts, pork, beef, onion, garlic, fennel, thyme, parsley, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly with your hands. This is a time when your hands will do a far better job than any utensil or machine. When the mixture is well combined, add the egg yolks and cornmeal and mix again.

4. Give the meat a little taste. (Don’t worry that it’s not cooked—I taste things before I cook all the time, and I’m probably the healthiest person I know.) It’s vitally important that the meatballs are seasoned well; if not, you might as well be making any old meatball. Adjust the seasonings as desired.

5. Refrigerate the meat mixture for 10 to 20 minutes to let the meat rest and the flavors mingle.

6. Form the meat into any size meatballs you like. I like mine a little smaller than golf balls.

7. Get a skillet super-hot and add a lug of olive oil. When the oil starts smoking, add the meatballs (you may need to work in batches, depending on the size of your pan) and cook them on all sides until browned, about 3 minutes total. Turn the heat off, put all the meatballs back into the skillet, add the tomato sauce, and cook for another 3 minutes or so.

8. When you’re ready to serve, pour the meatballs and sauce over freshly cooked pasta and top with some grated Parmesan cheese. Scatter a few fresh basil leaves on top.

Book credit: Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes by Jane Coxwell (William Morrow, a division of HarperCollins)