Meatballs and Polenta from The Barbuto Cookbook by Jonathan Waxman

meatballs and polenta

meatballs on creamy polenta with homemade tomato sauce


  • 4 TBS olive oil, divided
  • 2 onions, peeled and minced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground meat (equal parts beef, veal and pork)
  • 1/2 cup minced proscuitto
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 4 TBS heavy cream
  • 4 TBS butter
  • 5 large tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks or 1 can (16oz) San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, separate stems from leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups ground corn for polenta
  • 4 TBS Parmesan cheese


  • In a large saucepan heat 2 TBS of the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onions and garlic until transluscent, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Remove from heat and let cool.
  • In a large bowl mix together the ground meats, salt and black pepper.
  • Mix in the garlic/onions, proscuitto, breadcrumbs, the eggs, the Gruyere, and 2 TBS of the cream. Chill for 1 hour.
  • Roll the mixture into 1 1/2″ balls
  • In a large saucepan heat 2 TBS and 1 TBS butter over medium heat until frothy.Saute the meatballs until golden on all sides. Then add the tomatoes and their juices and the basil stems.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through. Keep warm.
  • While the meatballs and sauce cook, make the polenta.
  • In a saucepan heat the 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt until simmering.
  • Slowly pour in the cornmeal stirring with a wooden spoon, and cook gently for 1 hour adding more water if the polenta looks dry.
  • When the polenta is cooked add in the remaining 2 TBS butter, 2 TBS cream and season with salt.
  • Gently cut the basil leaves into strips and add to the sauce.
  • To serve: place the polenta on a plate, top with the sauce and meatballs. Garnish with the remaining Parmesan cheese


How I changed the recipe:

  • I used eggplant meatballs so I did not try this meatball recipe
  • I made the tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes. I let them cook until they were soft, then I added eggplant meatballs
  • I found that my polenta did not need to cook for near as long as indicated. It was done within 2o minutes.
  • I added the basil to the polenta for a change of flavor.


Keywords: meatballs, polenta, Barbuta, comfort food