Dinner

January 31, 2024

Creamy Polenta with Meatballs

If you love creamy polenta, then this is the recipe for you. This creamy polenta with meatballs is so comforting, cozy and hearty, making it perfect for those colder winter nights. The pillowy soft ricotta chicken meatballs are tender and delicious smothered in your favourite marinara sauce.

polenta in a bowl with meatballs on top.

There's just something about a cozy, creamy bowl of polenta. I love finishing polenta off with a bit of half and half cream and butter for a little extra richness and creaminess. Adding meatballs on top with some marinara sauce brings this simple and humble dish a little something extra. For the meatballs, we're using ground chicken and mixing them (gently) with fresh, whole milk ricotta cheese. This makes the meatballs almost fluffy, soft and seriously delicious. To make things a little easier, use your favourite jar of marinara sauce to simmer the meatballs in.

Ingredients

Here's everything you'll need to make these creamy polenta with meatballs.

  • ground chicken
  • whole milk ricotta cheese
  • garlic  
  • egg
  • panko
  • parsley
  • kosher salt
  • lemon zest
  • marinara sauce
  • polenta
  • half and half cream (10% cream)
  • butter
  • fresh basil
  • parmesan cheese
polenta in a bowl with meatballs on top.

How to Make Polenta with Meatballs

The first part to making this creamy polenta with meatballs is of course, making the polenta.

Cooking polenta is a little bit of a labour of love, but well worth it. This recipes uses a medium or coarse cornmeal/polenta, which is why it takes between 40-50 minutes. Personally, I don't really enjoy instant polenta (it just isn't the same), but if you do, use that instead. It will make things a lot quicker.

Pour the water into a dutch oven or medium sized pot and turn on high heat. After a few minutes, sprinkle in the polenta while whisking to combine. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently with a whisk. Let the polenta boil just until it's thickened slightly and the polenta starts to spit.

Immediately reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula and scraping the bottom of the pot. Cook until the polenta is thick and pulls away from the sides, about 40-50 minutes total.

With 10 minutes remaining on the polenta, pour in the cream and stir to combine.

When the polenta is done cooking, stir in the butter. Season with salt and enjoy right away.

If the polenta thickens too much, just add a splash of water and stir over low heat.

Divide the polenta into bowls and top with meatballs and fresh basil. Garnish with parmesan cheese and enjoy!

polenta in a bowl with meatballs on top.

How to Make Ricotta Chicken Meatballs

In a large bowl combine the chicken, ricotta, garlic, egg, panko, parsley, salt and lemon zest. Mix until just combined, being careful not to over mix.

meatball mixture in a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Using a cookie scoop, portion out the meat mixture into round balls, about 2 1/2 to 3 tbsps per ball. Place the balls on a baking sheet.

meatballs on baking sheet before cooking.

Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven to a broil (on high) and bake for two to three minutes, until browned and cooked through.

When the polenta is cooking, heat up the marinara sauce in a large pan, over low heat. Add the meatballs during the last few minutes to warm through.

meatballs in a pan with marinara sauce.

Tips

  • Soak the polenta: if you want to save some time (and you remember to do this the night before) you can soak the polenta first in water. Then pour the water and polenta mixture into your pot and cook until it's thick and creamy, the same way as directed in the recipe. It will take off about 30 minutes to cook, rather than 50 with un soaked polenta. You can see this post from Serious Eats all about soaking polenta and how to cook it. It's the basis behind my cooking method here as well.
  • Keep stirring: polenta can really stick to the pot when you first start cooking it, so be mindful and stir continuously especially in the beginning.
  • Thick polenta: if your polenta is looking too thick, just add some water, or a splash more of cream and stir to combine.
  • Serve right away: the polenta tastes and looks it's best right after it's done cooking. It will thicken and harden as it sits off the heat and without stirring. Be sure to serve the polenta with meatballs right away.
  • Dark meat: I typically use dark ground chicken meat (or turkey) rather than white meat as it has a lot more flavour and won't dry out as much. If you can, use a mix of the two or all dark meat.
  • Prep ahead: to make this a simpler weeknight meal, make the meatballs ahead and then reheat them on low with the marinara sauce until warmed through.
polenta in a bowl with meatballs on top.

Substitutions

  • Cream: you can omit the cream and use whole milk instead if that's what you have on hand. It just helps make the polenta super creamy.
  • Dairy-free: use a dairy-free cream, or omit. You can also omit the parmesan in the polenta. As for the meatballs, omit the ricotta, although it will make the meatballs a little less pillowy and soft.
  • Panko: use another type of breadcrumb.
  • Gluten-free: use a gluten-free breadcrumb.
  • Basil: use chopped fresh Italian parsley instead.
  • Ground chicken: use ground turkey, pork or lean ground beef instead.
polenta in a bowl with meatballs on top.

Ingredients & Products I Recommend:

Kosher salt:

I exclusively use Diamond Crystal kosher salt for all of my recipes. I prefer the texture, taste and consistency of this brand and highly recommend it for everyday cooking.

Marinara sauce: 

I love keeping Rao's marinara sauce on hand because it's delicious, made with simple ingredients and makes things a lot easier if I don't have prepared sauce on hand.

Polenta: 

I use Bob's Red Mill polenta because I love the brand and the consistency of the product.

More Recipes to Try

Looking for more weeknight dinner ideas? Try these...

Ready to make this? Let's go!

If you make this creamy polenta with meatballs, please let me know by tagging me on Instagram, or leave a comment and/or review below!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only share products and services I have personally used and love. Disclosure here.

Creamy Polenta with Meatballs

This creamy polenta with ricotta chicken meatballs and tomato sauce is a perfect, warming winter recipe that's sure to be your new favourite cozy dinner.

Prep:
10
min
cook:
50
min
total:
60
min
servings:
4
Author:

Jaclyn

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground chicken (dark meat prefer, or a mix)
  • 1/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 (24 ounce) jar of marinara sauce

For the polenta:

  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup
  • polenta (not instant)
  • kosher salt, to taste (about 1 to 1 1/2 tsps total)
  • 1/4 cup half and half cream (10% cream)
  • 2 tbsps butter
  • fresh basil, torn (for garnish)
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese, for garnish
Instructions

For the meatballs

  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  2. In a large bowl combine the chicken, ricotta, garlic, egg, panko, parsley, salt and lemon zest. Mix until just combined, being careful not to over mix.
  3. Using a cookie scoop, portion out the meat mixture into round balls, about 2 1/2 to 3 tbsps per ball. Place the balls on a baking sheet.
  4. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven to a broil (on high) and bake for two to three minutes, until browned and cooked through.
  5. When the polenta is cooking, heat up the marinara sauce in a large pan, over low heat. Add the meatballs during the last few minutes to warm through.

For the polenta:

  1. Pour the water into a dutch oven or medium sized pot and turn on high heat. After a few minutes, sprinkle in the polenta while whisking constantly to combine. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently with a whisk. Let the polenta boil just until it's thickened slightly and the polenta starts to spit.
  2. Immediately reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula and scraping the bottom of the pot. Cook until the polenta is thick and pulls away from the sides, about 40-50 minutes total.
  3. With about 10 to 15 minutes remaining on the polenta, pour in the cream and stir to combine.
  4. When the polenta is done cooking, stir in the butter. Season with salt and enjoy right away.
  5. If the polenta thickens too much, just add a splash of water and stir over low heat.
  6. Divide the polenta into bowls and top with meatballs and fresh basil. Garnish with parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Notes

This recipe makes about 12-14 meatballs, depending on size. One serving is about 3 meatballs with polenta.

Let's be friends...

Comment Below

Did you love this? Let us know!

Name
Email
Message
Thanks for contributing to our community! Your comment will appear shortly.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Be the first to comment on this recipe