Cheesy polenta with meatballs

The creamy and cheesy polenta is the star of this dish so roll up your sleves and dig in!

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
600ml tomato pasta sauce (bought is fine)
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
2 fresh bay leaves
Freshly grated parmesan, to serve

Meatballs
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
4 slices pancetta
Handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves
6 sage leaves
3 slices white bread, crusts removed
300g minced pork
300g minced lean beef
2 eggs

Polenta
500ml (2 cups) chicken stock
500ml (2 cups) full-cream milk
300g instant polenta
100g fontina cheese, rind removed, cut into small cubes (see tip)
1 rosemary sprig, leaves picked

Directions:

1. Start with the meatballs. Put the onion, garlic, pancetta, parsley, sage and bread in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the pork and beef mince and eggs, and keep pulsing until well combined. Season well with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and finish mixing by hand. Using wet hands, form the mixture into walnut-sized balls, setting them aside on a plate as you go.

2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Carefully add the meatballs and cook until they start to brown on all sides. Add the tomato sauce, chilli flakes, oregano and bay leaves and simmer for 30–40 minutes until the meatballs are cooked and the sauce is reduced and thick.

3. To make the polenta (this will take 10–15 minutes, so try and time it to be ready at the same time as the meatballs), place the stock, milk and 500ml (2 cups) water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Gradually add the polenta and use a whisk to stir it through until well incorporated. Reduce the heat to low and stir continuously for 3–4 minutes until the polenta is thick and creamy in texture. Add the cheese and rosemary and stir until the cheese is melted through.

4. To serve, pour the polenta onto a large serving platter and make a shallow well in the middle. Spoon the meatballs and sauce over the top and sprinkle with some freshly grated parmesan. Serve immediately.

Tips:

Fontina is a mild washed-rind cheese from the Valle d’Aosta in the north of Italy and is one of the best melting cheeses I know. Raclette is a good substitute, or any other washed rind with the rind removed.

This is an edited extract from Milk. Made. by Nick Haddow published by Hardie Grant Books RRP $55 and is available in stores nationally. Image © Alan Benson.