Tomato and Olive-Braised American lamb Meatballs with Soft Polenta

Menu Part: 
Appetizer
Cuisine Type: 
Mediterranean
Serves: 
6

Meatballs are an on-trend menu item, tying in with the popular comfort food trend. Chef Accarrino puts a Mediterranean twist on the dish by using ground lamb, smoked paprika and toasted cumin, but the Italian influence shines through in the tomato-based sauce and bed of creamy polenta.

Ingredients

Sauce:
28 oz. canned whole San Marzano tomatoes
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 bacon slices, very finely chopped
1 med. red onion, minced
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3/4 cup medium-dry red wine (like a Malbec)
1 tbsp. tomato paste

Meatballs:
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. smoked paprika (pimentòn)
1/4 tsp. toasted cumin* (see Note)
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 lb. ground American Lamb (preferably from sirloin)
1/4 cup pitted Gaeta olives

Polenta:
3 cups water
1 cup whole milk
1 cup polenta (coarse-ground cornmeal)
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
1 tbsp. mint leaves, stacked, rolled into a tight cylinder,
sliced crosswise into thin strips
2 tbsp. grated Pecorino cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Steps

  1. Prepare Sauce:  Pass tomatoes and sauce through the large-hole setting of a food mill; set aside.  Wrap butcher’s twine around the bottom of the thyme and rosemary and tie together; set aside.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed oven-safe pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over med. heat.  Add bacon; cook until the fat softens and begins to render into the pan, 2 to 3 min.  Stir in onions and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften, about 3 min.  Add garlic; cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 min.  Pour in wine; use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of pot.  
  3. When wine has mostly reduced, after about 5 min., stir in tomatoes and tomato paste.  Bring sauce to a simmer; add thyme and rosemary. Reduce heat to low; gently simmer while preparing meatballs.
  4. For Meatballs:  In large bowl, whisk together ricotta, egg, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.  Use a wooden spoon to stir in bread crumbs, Pecorino and parsley; add the lamb.  Use your hands to combine the ingredients; shape into 24 balls (use a small ice cream scooper to get evenly sized balls if desired).
  5. Arrange the meatballs on an oven-safe skillet lightly coated with cooking spray; place under broiler until nicely browned, about 10 min., rotating the pan midway through for even browning.  Remove pan from broiler.
  6. Transfer meatballs to sauce; stir to coat. Cover meatballs with parchment paper cut to fit.  Cover pot; cook at 325°F for 1 hr.
  7. For Polenta:  In a med. saucepan, bring water and milk to a simmer over med.-high heat.  Slowly sprinkle in polenta; whisk constantly to ensure mixture is smooth.  Continue to whisk until thickened.  Use a wooden spoon to stir in salt and pepper. 
  8. Reduce heat to low; slowly cook, stirring often, until creamy and completely cooked, about 45 min.  Turn off heat; stir in butter, oil and cheese; stir until butter is melted and incorporated.
  9. To serve:  Remove meatballs from the oven, uncover, and discard the parchment paper, garlic and the herb bundle; stir in olives.  Divide the polenta between 6 warmed plates or bowls.  Top with a few meatballs, some braising sauce and a few olives. Finish with mint, Pecorino, a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of black pepper.
Source: American Lamb Board

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
ucmc model

With a budget and timeline in place, and the support of the university behind them, the foodservice team at the University of Chicago Medical Center was ready to get rolling with the renovation of one of its patient services kitchens. The facility, which services the hospital’s Center for Care and Discovery and Comer Children’s Hospital, was tripling in size to serve two additional patient floors, to the tune of $9 million. But that didn’t mean immediately jumping in with steel and screws.

“First, we cut out scaled pieces of paper and moved things around,” says Elizabeth Lockwood,...

Managing Your Business
pizza toppings

When the FoodService Director editors first started tossing around the idea of an “influencers” issue, our minds immediately turned to, well, foodservice directors. After all, so much of the learning in this industry is a peer-to-peer experience, and it’s your influence that inspires the content in every single issue of this magazine.

Then we imagined the massive infighting that would occur if we tried to whittle ourselves down to a list of just 20 influential operators and thought better of it. There’s already enough arguing for us to do about which pizza toppings are best (...

Ideas and Innovation
granola bars

Where possible, we make grab-and-go items reimbursable. For example, if we’re serving a fruit and milk smoothie, we let students take a granola bar or other grain component to make it count as a meal.

Ideas and Innovation
unsung heroes graphic

Febin Bellamy, a senior at Georgetown University, is the founder of Unsung Heroes, a nonprofit that features service workers on college campuses in man-on-the-street-style Facebook interviews. This year, Bellamy is working with a dozen schools to launch their own chapters of the storytelling platform. Here’s what he’s learned about staff shoutouts.

Q: Why did you decide to start Unsung Heroes?

A: One day I started a conversation with a custodial worker in the business school that I would see all the time. I learned that we had a lot of similarities; for instance, we both wanted to...

FSD Resources