Recipe: Trattoria Marcella’s Meatballs and Polenta

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My wife and I love Trattoria Marcella, but unfortunately, they took our favorite dish off the menu. They used to make a superb meatballs and polenta dish that was the best I’ve ever had. I would love to know how to make it at home, especially if they aren’t going to be bringing the dish back anytime soon. – Zach Schaefer

Trattoria Marcella’s Meatballs Over Polenta
4 Servings
Courtesy of Trattoria Marcella’s Steve Komorek

Marcella’s Homemade Meatballs
Extra-virgin olive oil
Half a yellow onion, finely diced
1½ Tbsp. minced garlic
6 slices white bread
1 cup whole milk
½ bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
¾ Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1½ lbs. ground chuck
1 lb. ground pork
1½ cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1½ cups plain breadcrumbs
2 large farm eggs
1½ Tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. crushed fennel seed
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

• Coat a saute pan with extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic until soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

• In a shallow bowl, soak the slices of bread in the milk for 2 to 3 minutes. 

• In a food processor, purée the sauteed onion and garlic with the parsley and basil. Transfer to a large bowl and add the soaked bread and any remaining milk, ground chuck, ground pork, cheese, breadcrumbs, eggs, salt, fennel, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Mix by hand for 5 minutes. Let the mixture rest for 1 hour. 

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

• Using wet hands, form about 15 tennis ball-sized meatballs and place on a baking sheet. 

• Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until cooked through. 

• While the meatballs are baking, prepare the tomato sauce and the polenta (Recipes follow.). When the meatballs are done, keep warm in the tomato sauce. To serve, divide the polenta equally among 4 bowls. Ladle meatballs and sauce over the polenta. Unused sauce and meatballs will keep, covered, in the refrigerator up to 5 days.

San Marzano Tomato Sauce
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1½ Tbsp. minced garlic
4 16-oz. cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
1½ Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• Coat a medium pot with extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion, carrot and garlic until soft.
• Meanwhile, add the tomatoes to a large bowl and crush with your hands.
• Add the crushed tomatoes, basil and salt and pepper to the pot with the sauteed vegetables. Stir to combine. Cook 30 minutes over medium heat.
• Carefully purée the sauce in a food processor or with a hand blender.

Creamy Parmigiano Polenta
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup cream (40 percent)
2 Tbsp. sweet butter
Kosher salt to taste
2 cups instant polenta
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

• Bring the chicken stock, cream and butter to a boil. Salt liberally to taste.
• Slowly add the instant polenta, whisking constantly. Cook 5 to 7 minutes, whisking periodically. The polenta is finished when it pulls away from the pan slightly. Stir in the grated Parmigiano until well mixed.

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