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
staff pack

To keep staff motivated, we locked them in a room together. As part of a midsemester training session, we formed work groups and sent them to a local Escape Room to see which team could play the game together most effectively and escape first. Not only was this training a great team-building experience, but it supported a local new business and gave our staff a memorable experience.

Ideas and Innovation
star employee

Senior leadership meets twice a year to do organizational talent planning for every position from the top down. We talk about who are the potential high-performers, and go through how they can grow. People are your differentiator—you need to take care of your assets, and your assets are your human resources.

Industry News & Opinion

Students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will be served student-grown produce from the campus farm at dining halls this fall, M Live reports.

The dining team received its first batch of produce from UM’s on-campus farm in June, after students received the proper USDA certification to grow, harvest and deliver food to campus dining halls. In order to figure out what produce is needed, students communicate with the dining department weekly, and Michigan Dining purchases items accordingly.

"The students are involved from seed to plate," Executive Chef Frank Turchan...

Sponsored Content
college students eating

From Ovention.

Today’s colleges and universities know they should offer more than a large selection of breakfast cereals in the morning and chicken tenders at lunch to appeal to students. When it comes to what’s trending on campuses, here’s a look at what directors can tune into to boost engagement.

1. Expanded dining hours

Late-night options have long been a popular fixture on college campuses, but if it’s too late, students often choose to venture to off-campus retailers to satisfy their cravings. According to Technomic’s 2017 College & University Consumer Trend...

FSD Resources