Polenta with Meat Sauce

Tuesday, August 4, 2020
Polenta is really a dish, not an ingredient, from northern Italy and started somewhere around the 16th century as peasant food.

It resembles a porridge or mush and is made from coarsely ground usually yellow cornmeal, however in Venice Italy, white coarsely ground cornmeal is the most popular.

Growing up in the 1960s with an all Italian grandmother (who was born in Rome Italy) she was very accustomed to depression food and made this often when I was a child.

Mom would make a Traditional Sunday Sauce and grandma would use the leftover meatballs and sausage crushed up and poured it over our polenta dish.

That wasn't how she first had hers as a child and it was served just made in boiling water and the cornmeal was served with butter or olive oil if they were lucky to have it.

Later on, sometime around 1910 (when she moved to the USA at 16, to Utica New York which is referred to as Little Italy), she adapted the recipe that would become one of our favorite dinners in the winter months.

Cornmeal is still a very popular grain used in cornbread recipes, and many restaurants use polenta as an appetizer.

We love Polenta Pizzettes, Polenta Lemon Biscotti Cookies, and even used as a coating on potatoes!

Scroll down for this simple yummy recipe, you can make plain or revised with meat sauce simplified.

this is a delicious stovetop made cornmeal mush called Polenta topped with meat sauce and fresh basil leaves along with grated Pecorino Romano Cheese

Cornmeal Grinds

Check out the packages first!

There are several grinds and some will not work well for polenta.

The grind must be medium to coarsely ground.

Never use cornflour which is a fine consistency and will give you paste for texture instead of this almost like grits texture.

this is a delicious stovetop made cornmeal mush called Polenta topped with meat sauce and fresh basil leaves along with grated Pecorino Romano Cheese in a white casserole dish and there is a pot holder and whisk in the background

Other Kinds Of Polenta

Other styles of Polenta found in the supermarkets are instant and quick-cooking and processed to reduce the time you cook it.

Most Polenta takes time to come out great which can be anywhere from 20-40 minutes stirring constantly.

You may also find it in tubes which is solid and thick and great for appetizers when sliced and topped with meats, cheese, and almost pizza-like adding a tomato sauce.

Some people refer to Polenta as "Italian Grits" because of its a creamy texture.

Slow-cooked is key to getting the grains to swell and starches released that make this creamy.

this is a slice of delicious stovetop made cornmeal mush called Polenta topped with meat sauce and fresh basil leaves along with grated Pecorino Romano Cheese


  • Always get a medium to coarse grind cornmeal
  • Slow cook this in liquid water and chicken broth are perfect
  • Stir constantly to keep it from getting large lumps
  • This can be served with milk and sugar for breakfast or meat sauce for dinner
  • Keep leftovers stored in the refrigerator
  • If you love cheese (besides the grated cheese used in the recipe) just add some shredded mozzarella and just broil the top when completed assembling
  • For an optional topping, use sauteed spinach, escarole or broccoli rabe on top with meat sauce

this is a fresh pot of bolognese sauce to top Polenta

Ingredients You Will Need

  • Meat Sauce
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • ground beef, loose mild Italian sausage or leftover crushed meatballs and sausage from Sunday's tomato sauce
  • cloves garlic, minced 
  • dry red wine
  • canned crushed tomatoes
  • chicken broth or homemade stock
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • fresh chopped basil
  • dried oregano
  • salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
  • Pecorino Romano grated cheese for serving
  • For the Cornmeal Polenta
  • water or chicken broth
  • yellow or white medium to coarse cornmeal
  • salt
  • extra virgin olive oil

this is ground white cornmeal being cooked in a pan slowly poured and whisked together

Additional Topping Suggestions:

  • Crushed Meatballs in sauce
  • Crushed Sausage in sauce
  • Loose Ground cooked beef
  • Cooked boneless chicken
  • Cooked pork in sauce
  • Loose ground pork
  • Ground turkey or chicken
  • Pepperoni
  • Cooked Pancetta
  • Sauteed broccoli rabe, spinach or escarole
  • Shredded mozzarella or provolone

this is coarse white cornmeal cooked in a saucepan ready to be topped with meat sauce for Polenta

More Recipes To Try:

Polenta Coated Potatoes
Polenta Pizzettes
Polenta Pizza with Broccoli Rabe
Lemon Polenta Biscotti

this is polenta using the white coarse cornmeal usually popular in Venice Italy

Vegetarian Toppings:

(just omit the meat)

As I mentioned before here are some of the vegetable alternative toppings we love just added to the top!

Sauteed Broccoli Rabe
Sauteed Spinach
Sauteed Utica Escarole

Also, artichokes hearts bakedbaked sliced eggplant, or baked sliced zucchini are other great toppings for non-meat-eaters.

this is a bowl of polenta with meat sauce

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pin for later how to make polenta with meat sauce


Now that you have the history of Polenta it's time to try this savory style meat sauce recipe.

The kids love it and always refer to it as soft pizza so it's an easy win-win!

Pure Italian comfort food right from the best old fashioned Grandma's kitchen, adapted through the years.

Polenta with Meat Sauce

Polenta with Meat Sauce

Yield: 8
Author: Claudia Lamascolo
Prep time: 15 MCook time: 30 MTotal time: 45 M
This is a cornmeal dish called Polenta made primarily by peasants back in Italy during depression years. This is delicious comfort food that we grew up eating in our Italian home.


  • Meat Sauce Recipe:
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, loose mild Italian sausage or leftover crushed meatballs and sausage from Sunday's tomato sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
  • Garnish for Serving Polenta: Pecorino Romano grated cheese, for serving and a handful of fresh basil leaves
  • Optional: shredded mozzarella cheese on top then broiled till browned,
  • red peppers flakes, sauteed broccoli rabe or sauteed escarole or spinach on top
  • For the Cornmeal Polenta
  • 4 1/2 cups water (or use half chicken broth and water)
  • 1 1/3 cups yellow or white medium to coarse cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


  1. For the Meat Sauce
  2. In a large deep frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and saute the loose sausage until the pink is all gone about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the wine and let simmer 3 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, broth, 4 tablespoons of the parsley, and salt, pepper to taste.
  5. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Uncover, and simmer 5 minutes longer.
  6. For the Cornmeal Polenta:
  7. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a rolling boil adding the 1 1/4 teaspoons salt.
  8. Slowly stir in the cornmeal in a slow stream, whisking constantly.
  9. Whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons oil.
  10. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the polenta is thick, about this can take time up to 30 minutes sometimes more.
  11. Cook it until the grains are soft or to the package instructions.
  12. Stir in the Pecorino Romano cheese.
  13. Pour into a deep pie plate or casserole dish to be around 1 inch or so in thickness.
  14. Serve the polenta topped with the meat sauce sprinkled with more Parmesan and red pepper flakes and fresh basil leaves.
  15. As an Option: add sauteed spinach with garlic and oil, escarole or broccoli rabe on top of the meat sauce, recipes below.
  16. Sauteed Broccoli Rabe
  17. Sauteed Spinach
  18. Sauteed Utica Escarole
depression cornmeal meals, meat sauce with cornmeal, polenta with meat sauce, tomato meat sauce with cornmeal,
casseroles, cornmeal recipes, white cornmeal, yellow cornmeal
Italian, American
Created using The Recipes Generator

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this is a pin for polenta and how to make it with meat sauce on top its sliced open to see the inside

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Cornmeal Chicken Wings

Cornbread Muffins

Broccoli Cheese Cornbread


  1. Meat sauce makes so many things so tasty! I love it all over some baked sweet potatoes too. Have never tried it with polenta though and something I definitely need to try soon.

  2. This sounds delicious and I just have some leftover sauce in the fridge in need of a use.

  3. My family LOVES polenta and when topped with a fabulous sauce, it is just incredible!


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