“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.

Clodagh McKenna
Clodagh McKenna (Dora Kazmierak/PA)

“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.”

Meatballs with polenta main
(Dora Kazmierak/PA)
Meatballs with polenta main
Print Recipe
Nutrition Facts
Ricotta meatballs with polenta
Amount Per Serving
Calories 1138 Calories from Fat 540
% Daily Value*
Fat 60g92%
Saturated Fat 24g150%
Cholesterol 178mg59%
Sodium 813mg35%
Potassium 4436mg127%
Carbohydrates 109g36%
Fiber 17g71%
Sugar 50g56%
Protein 53g106%
Vitamin A 9248IU185%
Vitamin C 433mg525%
Calcium 652mg65%
Iron 15mg83%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Ricotta meatballs with polenta

A traditional Sicilian meatball
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4
Calories: 1138kcal


  • 200 g minced beef
  • 200 g minced pork
  • 200 g ricotta cheese
  • 2 onions diced
  • 4 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 80 g Parmesan cheese grated
  • 40 g fresh fine breadcrumbs
  • 1 medium free-range egg beaten
  • 75 g polenta
  • 1 - 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 50 g salted butter plus 1 tbsp (optional)
  • 400 g cavolo nero roughly chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the rosemary tomato sauce:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 400 can of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée


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


Calories: 1138kcal | Carbohydrates: 109g | Protein: 53g | Fat: 60g | Saturated Fat: 24g | Cholesterol: 178mg | Sodium: 813mg | Potassium: 4436mg | Fiber: 17g | Sugar: 50g | Vitamin A: 9248IU | Vitamin C: 433mg | Calcium: 652mg | Iron: 15mg

Clodagh’s Weeknight Kitchen by Clodagh McKenna is published by Kyle Books. Photography by Dora Kazmierak. 

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