I feel like we’re all collectively screaming for comfort food right now. The weather is cold, dark and generally kind of shitty. The political landscape in America is bleak, at best. And Valentine’s Day, which I’ve found to be a rather dreaded day for both singles and couples alike, is looming on the horizon.
All of these things are reason enough to dig into some good old fashioned Italian comfort food. Which is why I decided to make us some Baked Chicken Parmesan Meatballs with Creamy Polenta for today. AND I made it all in just about 30 minutes. Because sometimes when you need comfort food, you need it FAST.
Something you may have noticed over the past year or so on this site is a shift towards almost exclusively plant-based recipes. And while I’m not claiming to be a vegetarian (I still enjoy non-vegetarian recipes on occasion), I’d estimate that about 90% of my meals consumed at home are strictly plant-based.
I don’t really have one glaring reason for this shift in my diet. All I can really say is that eating plants makes me feel good. It’s as simple as that. So I’m going to continue down that path for now. And throw in a few non-vegetarian recipes every once in a while when a craving hits.
Meatballs are one of the few foods that I remember really liking as a child. I was a picky eater, so most things were off limits at meal times. But meatballs were almost always welcome.
I like to make my meatballs from ground chicken (although you could certainly use ground turkey). And I always bake them in my oven. Which I suppose isn’t very traditional. But I appreciate that they are a little bit leaner. And not to mention, less messy and more hands off to prepare. Once you get the meatballs in the oven, you can concentrate your efforts elsewhere in the kitchen – like tackling a batch of this homemade tomato sauce and whisking up the creamiest mascarpone cheese polenta EVER.
This recipe can undoubtedly be made from start to finish in 30 minutes. I’ve done it successfully many times. There is very little chopping. And each component requires less than 20 minutes of actual cooking time. BUT I have to be honest and say that there is some coordination/multi-tasking required to get it done within a 30 minute time frame. You’ll have to manage the tomato sauce and the polenta at the same time. Which isn’t that big of a deal, but it can feel kind of rushed the first time you try it. If all that sounds unpleasant to you, feel free to warm up a big jar of your favorite store-bought tomato sauce on the stovetop in lieu of making your own. That will save you a few minutes.
Polenta is kind of a new-ish ingredient for me. I didn’t grow up eating polenta, so it tends to fall off my radar periodically. But I’m trying to incorporate it more into my life. It’s a great base for everything from these chicken meatballs to barbecue pulled pork to roasted vegetables. How do you usually use polenta? I’d love to hear some additional suggestions!
Are you craving even more meals that you can prepare in 30 minutes or less? Of course you are! Well, lucky for you it’s 30 Minute Thursday. If you scroll down past the recipe below, you’ll find links to other quick and easy recipes from some of my blogging friends. Make sure to check them all out!
Baked Chicken Parmesan Meatballs with Creamy Polenta
For the Meatballs:
- 1 lb ground chicken (you can substitute ground turkey)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
For the Tomato Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 2/3 cups chicken stock
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
For the Polenta:
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup polenta
- 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
- 1 tsp. salt
- About 1/2 cup milk
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Fresh basil, chopped
- Parmesan cheese, shredded
- Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with non-stick spray and set aside. To make the meatballs, add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and mix until everything is just combined (your hands are the best tool for this job!). Shape the chicken mixture into balls, using about 2 tablespoons of the mixture for each meatball. You should end up with 16-18 meatballs. Place the meatballs on your prepared baking sheet. Transfer to your pre-heated oven and bake for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the crushed tomatoes, chicken stock (use it to rinse out the can of crushed tomatoes), basil, salt and black pepper. Bring to a simmer. Once the meatballs have finished baking, gently add them to the simmering sauce and let them cook in the sauce for an additional 5 minutes. Remove the stock pot from the heat. Cover to keep warm.
- Meanwhile, make the polenta. Bring the water in a boil in a heavy bottom saucepan. Slowly whisk in the polenta and turn down the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook the polenta for 15-17 minutes, whisking frequently so it doesn’t burn on the bottom and adjusting the heat to prevent it from aggressively splattering and bubbling. Once the polenta has thickened and the liquid is absorbed, remove the saucepan from the heat. Whisk in the mascarpone cheese and the salt. Then whisk in enough milk to thin it to your desired consistency. Cover to keep warm.
- To serve, spoon the warm polenta into bowls. Top with the meatballs and some of the sauce. Garnish with fresh herbs and shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for 2-3 days.
30 Minute Thursday Recipes
One Pot 30-Minute Pasta e Fagioli from Flavor the Moments
Tuna Casserole from My Kitchen Craze
Easy Chicken Pad Thai from Life Made Sweeter
One Pot Black Bean Fajita Pasta (Make Ahead) from Sweet Peas & Saffron
Italian Chicken Tortellini Skillet from The Recipe Rebel
Lightened Up Baked Chicken Parmesan from Kristine’s Kitchen
Healthy Taco Chickpea Lettuce Wraps from She Likes Food
30 Minute Chicken Stew from Bake.Eat.Repeat
Garlic Parmesan Gnocchi with Mushrooms from Pumpkin ‘N Spice
I really dislike this time of year, mainly because of the weather, but also for the reasons you stated. So comfort food is much needed! I love how you gave chicken parmesan a makeover and added it to polenta. Sounds like the best comfort food, and even better that it’s ready in just 30 minutes!
Thanks, Gayle! Only a couple more months to go until the weather improves!
Comfort food is needed right now…I have a cold, politics suck, the weather is dreary, and I can’t stand Valentine’s Day. I’m in a great mood huh?! This meal is comfort food perfection — I haven’t made polenta in way too long and these meatballs just sound perfect!
Lol. You still might be in a better mood than me, Marcie! Cheer up, friend. XOXO.
for whatever reason i’ve never baked meatballs before. but i really should, because by the time i finish sauteeing them, they’re more like meat cubes than meatballs.
And I can’t stand the mess of frying/sauteeing things. All that splattering oil drives me nuts! I hope you try baking up some meatballs soon!
This sounds SO GOOD, Liz!!!! I’ve never made polenta before, but this sounds absolutely incredible. I also eat MOSTLY plant-based, and prefer my meatballs baked in the oven and made with chicken or turkey. Going on my to-make list ASAP!! Sending comfort and hugs. xoxo
Well, then this recipe is just made for you! I hope you try it and love it!
This is gorgeous, Liz! I’m not 100% vegetarian but like you, have shifted to mostly plant-based meals for myself about 3 years ago (not the hubs or the kids). A big bowl of comfort food is totally necessary right now. Love this chicken parmesan twist you added to polenta! Sounds so perfect for this dreary day we have over here!
Thanks, Kelly. I hope you give it a try. This is one the kids will love, too!
I’m all about the plant based recipes, but I could totally go for a big bowl of this comfort right about now! Yeah, everything is pretty bleak these days, but at least we have delicious meals like this to get ourselves through these times!
Food is definitely getting me through the days!
This looks SO GOOD! I could totally go for some comfort good right now. Also must definitely try baked meatballs soon! Love this!
Yes! Baked meatballs are way less messy and easier too, I think. I hope you try it out!
Total comfort food season here! I am a big meatball lover and I know these would be a big hit here. Yay for healthier eating! I love what you’ve been doing lately!
Aww…thanks, Ashley! I hope your girls love these meatballs!
I am craving comfort food right along with you. I am so ready for winter to just end, and for the political news to calm down (pleeeease!!) This looks absolutely amazing, can you believe I’ve never tried polenta? I am 1000% sure I would love this, especially since there’s mascarpone involved!
WHAT? You need to make polenta ASAP!
I love everything about this dish, Liz! I almost always bake my meatballs, too, because it’s just so much easier. And I absolutely LOVE that you served them over creamy polenta!
The polenta is a nice change from the usual pasta!
Oh this looks so good! I could just eat that now…and it’s not even lunch time!
Totally acceptable for breakfast! Lol!
OMG, I’m totally screaming for comfort food right now! And these meatballs will TOTALLY hit the spot! I like chicken meatballs and I happen to bake mine too, so I feel like you made this bowl of deliciousness just for me! 😉 Seriously, this looks just perfect, Liz! Creamy polenta and juicy meat-a-ballas? SIGN ME UP! Pinned! Cheers!
We need to have dinner together sometime very soon!
OMG, Liz… I wanted to do a total faceplant into this dish when I saw it first on IG! I’ve not made “meat” balls in far too long. And like you, I love them with polenta, but kinda forgot about it because, Rob loves the pasta.. so I usually go with that. But the Mascarpone is giving me heart eyes!! This is just gorgeous! And Hooray for feeling good eating plant-based meals!! I love it!
Oh Rob is always causing so much trouble. Lol. I think he’ll be won over my this mascarpone cheese polenta!
Sounds like a great meal! I like that you have served it with polenta
It’s a great little change up from the usual pasta!
Liz this meal is my kind of meal. I don’t know why I never make meatballs, but I need to make this asap! Love the healthier eating too. I need that in my life right now! Also I’ve never tried or made polenta. I think I need to get on that stat! Great recipe!
I’ve actually never even had polenta – not something I grew up eating, and so I’ve never tried it. It looks pretty amazing though so I might have to change that! Love the meatballs!
It’s really easy to make and so good. And you can pretty much use it anywhere you would rice, pasta or potatoes. I think you’ll dig it!
Wow. And I thought I’d put just about everything on polenta – shrimp, short ribs… but I love this! It’s like another form of spaghetti!
I love a creamy base for meatballs – polenta or mashed potatoes are both a favorite!
I’m actually making this tonight!