Let’s talk about comfort food.
If you’re looking for something to warm your soul and make your tummy happy, this one’s for you. It’s been cold and dreary here this week, and I’m definitely craving soups and pastas and all the carbs. This meal is totally the thing to make when the weather takes a turn. It is a hug in a bowl.
Like, the first bite has the same effect on my taste buds that the Who’s have on the Grinch’s heart. Or when a Loony Toon sees an attractive lady and his eyeballs bulge out of his head in the shape of hearts. Yeah. How’s that visual for ya? It’s fancy enough for guests but easy enough for a weeknight. Not only does it taste completely decadent and special, but it is packed with some of my favorite flavors. Ever.
Lamb is a meat I don’t cook with very often, but when I do, I find myself saying “why am I not eating this ALL THE TIME?” And then I finish said meal and go back to my regularly scheduled chicken or beef dishes. Lamb is just not on my radar. But I love it so! It’s a special flavor. If you’re not into it (I know several people who think it’s too strong or gamey), you could easily sub in another meat here. Beef would be my first choice.
These meatballs are super easy to throw together and can be made ahead of time. They reheat beautifully and the recipe makes enough for several servings. I love making a double batch of these and freezing half. They’re a great addition to pastas and soups because they have SO MUCH FLAVOR. So yummy.
When I was thinking about this recipe, I knew I wanted the meatballs to be the star. And well, I kind of failed in that regard. Because all the components of this dish shine! The polenta! The chimichurri! It’s like three divas competing for that spotlight. The meatballs are just one of the important roles in this show. I really can’t pick my favorite part of this dish. Everything is awesome and necessary.
Neither Dan nor I is a big fan of polenta. I like it crisped up and fried but rarely crave the creamy version you see here. I think I’m acquiring a taste for it, though! The copious amounts of added dairy may have something to do with that. I never grew up eating it; I don’t think my mom made it a single time. We were more of a mashed potato family. Blame it on the Irish genes. But polenta wasn’t something I discovered until I was an adult. And when I first had it, I was underwhelmed. It always tastes kind of bland to me? I immediately find myself thinking “I wish I had mashed potatoes instead.” Haha. Old habits die hard.
I’ve figured out how to make it work in our household, though. Lots of cheese. Lots of butter. And lots of milk! The trifecta of all things delicious. The cheese in this case is manchego. One of my favorite cheeses. It’s so buttery and sharp and nutty and wonderful. It melts beautifully but grates up so easily like a good, aged parmesan does. It is a nice twist on polenta, too. It adds just the right amount of cheesy flavor, while still allowing the sweet corn flavor to shine through. We gobbled this right up, with my dear husband even exclaiming “God, that polenta is awesome!”
So, that’s a big win here.
The chimichurri is what brings this dish all together. Not only is chimichurri made with everyday ingredients, but it holds up REALLY well in the fridge. I make a huge batch and keep it in the fridge for up to a month. It’s a punchier version of pesto, and I could eat it on just about anything. This polenta and meatball bowl is no different.
The chimichurri adds some needed acid and pizzazz (I think that is only the third time in my life that I have ever used the word “pizzazz,” by the way). It brightens up the heavier flavor of the lamb and the decadence of the creamy polenta. It adds some green pop too, which is always necessary when your food primarily fills out the brown and yellow sections on the color wheel. Womp womp.
Most importantly? It’s freaking delicious. Like I said, I could eat it on anything.
Give me a bowl of food like this and I’ll be your best friend. Forever.
1 cup packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup whole milk
½ of a medium onion, grated or very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, pressed or grated
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ cup grated manchego cheese
1 large egg
Salt and pepper
1 lb ground lamb
4½ cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1¼ cups polenta
1 cup grated manchego cheese
1 cup whole milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2-3 teaspoons truffle oil, optional
Combine all ingredients except the oil in a food processor and pulse until everything is finely chopped. With the machine running, stream in the olive oil. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge until ready to use. This gets better the longer it hangs out in the fridge, and it will keep for up to a month in an airtight container.
Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spray with nonstick spray. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Combine all the ingredients except the egg and the lamb. Mix well and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add in the egg and mix to combine.
Finally, fold in the lamb, working the mixture until it is just combined and homogenous.
Scoop the meatballs into 1-inch balls and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Spray them with the nonstick spray and place the tray in the preheated oven.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through. Keep warm until you are ready to serve.
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Once it is boiling, add the salt.
Gradually whisk in the polenta and reduce the heat to low. Stirring frequently, cook until the polenta is tender and thick, about 15 minutes.
Add the cheese, milk, and butter and stir constantly until everything is melted and incorporated. If using, whisk in the truffle oil. Season, to taste, with additional salt and pepper. Keep warm until you are ready to serve. If it thickens up too much, whisk in a little milk before serving.
Ladle some of the polenta onto each plate and top with a few meatballs. Drizzle the chimichurri over top and serve immediately.