Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Sausage Meatballs with Marinara and Creamy Polenta

Tender meatballs in a rich garlicky tomato sauce add up to comfort food 101. Warm, creamy polenta—with a cheesy touch—makes a tasty alternative to mashed potatoes, rice, or other usual side dishes.

How to get those meatballs extra tender? Milk-soaked bread. Tear some soft white bread into small pieces, dunk them into a bowl of milk, and let them soak about 15 minutes. Squeeze out most of the milk, add the bread to your sausage mixture, and you’re ready to roll out the meatballs.

Tip: You can find boxed varieties of polenta on store shelves, but if it’s not a dish you make often, also check market bulk sections for the quick-cooking kind so that you can buy just the amount you need.

Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup small, torn pieces soft white bread
  • 2/3 cup nonfat milk
  • 1 lb bulk, hot (or mild) Italian sausage
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped, divided
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped, divided
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp plus 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 15-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2/3 cup quick-cooking polenta
  • chopped chives, for garnish 
  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the bread cubes in a small bowl and pour the milk over them. Press the bread down to submerge and let soak 15 minutes.
  3. Combine the sausage, 1/2 the chopped garlic, 1/2 the chopped shallot, 1/2 cup cheese, egg, and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove the bread from the milk, gently squeezing to remove excess. Add to the bowl with the sausage mixture and mix lightly to combine all.
  5. Divide the meat mixture into 12 1-1/2-inch-diameter balls and place on the prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake until tender and just cooked through, 18-20 minutes, turning halfway through.
Milk-Soaked Bread 

Sausage Mixture

Rolled Meatballs

Baked Meatballs
  1. Meanwhile, heat a heavy (preferably cast-iron) skillet over medium-low heat and add the olive oil. Add the remaining shallot and garlic and cook 2 minutes.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes and wine and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a light simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook 10 minutes.
  3. Uncover and cook until slightly thickened, 5 minutes.
  4. Add the baked meatballs and 1/4 cup parsley to the marinara, turning and stirring to coat well.
Garlic and Shallot

Sauce Beginning to Cook

Cooked Sauce

Meatballs in Sauce
  1. While the marinara cooks, in a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a light boil over medium-high heat. Gradually add the polenta, stirring constantly to prevent clumps. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, 4-5 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Cooked Polenta
Serve the meatballs and marinara nestled alongside the polenta and garnish all with chopped chives.

Sausage Meatballs with Marinara and Creamy Polenta

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