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RECIPE: Ricotta meatballs with polenta - Clodagh McKenna style

Ella Walker spoke to chef, TV presenter and award-winning cookbook author Clodagh McKenna for a tasty autumn recipe perfect for cold evenings. Here is how to make ricotta meatballs with polenta.

Ella Walker

Ricotta meatballs with polenta, Clodagh McKenna style.

“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,” says chef and food writer, Clodagh McKenna. “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.”


(Serves 4)

200g minced beef

200g minced pork

200g ricotta cheese

2 onions, diced

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

80g Parmesan cheese, grated

40g fresh fine breadcrumbs

1 medium free-range egg, beaten

75g polenta

1–2tbsp olive oil

50g salted butter, plus 1tbsp (optional)

400g cavolo nero, roughly chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the rosemary tomato sauce:

1tbsp olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

400g can cherry tomatoes

1tbsp 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 cling-film and place in the fridge for one hour to set so that they don’t crumble during cooking.

You can also leave the meatballs in the fridge for up to three days, or freeze them for up to a month, until you are ready to cook them.

2. 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 two minutes. Add the tomatoes and tomato purée, season with salt and pepper and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Next, get the polenta cooking. Pour 600ml 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 five minutes. Once it has cooked, stir in a tablespoon of olive oil or butter.

4. Now back to the meatballs. Place a frying pan over a medium heat and pour in one 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.

5. Place the cavolo nero in a pan over a medium heat with the butter and season with salt and pepper. Cook for five minutes, turning the leaves with tongs so they cook evenly.

6. Divide the polenta between four warmed bowls, followed by the meatballs, an extra spoonful of the rosemary tomato sauce and the cavolo nero. Serve.

W Clodagh’s Weeknight Kitchen by Clodagh McKenna is published by Kyle Books, priced £20. Photography by Dora Kazmierak. Available now.

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