Clodagh McKenna’s Sicilian meatballs with polenta and cavolo nero

It was when I lived in Italy that I learned how to make a proper Sicilian meatball. They should be juicy and melt in the mouth.

I mix together minced pork and ricotta with ground beef — the pork brings flavour and juiciness to the meatball, while the ricotta adds a lovely lightness.

I serve mine with polenta as they do over the colder months in Italy, but you could pair them with spaghetti. This is great freezer food too; double the recipe so you can store some away.

It’s nice to serve a green vegetable alongside. I like cavolo nero but you could use purple sprouting broccoli, green salad or shredded cabbage.


(Clodagh McKenna)

For the meatballs

  • 200g each of ground beef, ground pork and ricotta cheese 
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 80g parmesan, grated
  • 40g fine breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten 
  • Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For the rosemary tomato sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced 
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 400g of tinned cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

For the cavolo nero

  • 300g cavolo nero
  • 50g butter or a tablespoon of olive oil

For the polenta

  • 600ml water
  • 75g polenta
  • Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper


1. Place the ground beef, pork, ricotta, onions, garlic, rosemary, parmesan, breadcrumbs and beaten egg in a bowl and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well.

2. Using your hands, shape 30 meatballs and transfer them to a lightly floured plate. Cover and place in a fridge for an hour, which sets them so that they won’t crumble when you start cooking. You can leave the meatballs in the fridge for up to three days, or freeze them until you’re ready.

3. Place a saucepan over a low heat and add one tablespoon of olive oil, before stirring in the onion, garlic and rosemary, and simmer for two minutes. Then stir in the tinned cherry tomatoes and tomato paste, and season with salt and pepper. Leave to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Next, get the polenta cooking. Place the water in a saucepan over a medium heat and season with salt and pepper. Once the water has come to the boil, whisk in the polenta. Lower the heat, cover and stir every five minutes. The polenta will take approximately 25 minutes to cook. Once it has, stir in a tablespoon of olive oil or butter.

5. Now, back to the meatballs. Place a frying pan over a medium heat and pour in one tablespoon of olive oil, add the meatballs and brown on all sides. Then spoon the meatballs into the tomato rosemary sauce and allow to cook for 15 minutes.

6. Put the cavolo nero in a pan over a medium heat with the butter, and season with salt and pepper. Turn the vegetable with tongs so it cooks evenly, which will take five minutes.

7. Spoon the polenta between four warmed bowls, followed by the meat balls, an extra spoon of the tomato sauce and finally the cavolo nero.

Follow Clodagh on Instagram @clodagh_mckenna


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