Inspired by a meal at Winflo Osteria, an Austin-based Italian eatery, this recipe for Zesty Chicken Meatballs with Creamy Polenta and Sauteed Mixed Greens is an impressive comfort meal that’s bursting with cozy Italian flavor!
In the past, whenever I thought of Italian food I immediately thought of pasta or pizza. If you did too, then hopefully this recipe for Zesty Chicken Meatballs with Creamy Polenta and Sautéed Mixed Greens changes your mind!
To be honest, I was of that same mindset, never really caring for Italian food. But that all changed after our trip to Italy where I experience true Italian food — food that was fresh, full of vegetables and was definitely more than pizza and pasta. Ever since that eye-opening trip, I crave Italian flavors.
When this craving hits, I immediately drag <3M to Winflo Osteria for an Italian meal that brings me straight back to Rome. We’ve dined at Winflo often enough that I now have a regular order and don’t even need to look at the menu. My standard order starts with a juicy glass of red wine and a plate of their creamy, house-made burrata (seriously my favorite starter in town!).
For my main course, there’s never any second guessing, it’s always Winflo’s chicken meatballs with polenta and red sauce. And since I can’t indulge without some veggies thrown in, I order up a side of their sautéed greens! I absolutely love this meal because the portions are just large enough for me to have half for dinner and then treat myself again the next day with leftovers for lunch!
After eating this meal so many times at Winflo, I knew it was something I had to recreate at home which inspired this recipe for Zesty Chicken Meatballs with Creamy Polenta and Sautéed Mixed Greens.
For my Zesty Chicken Meatballs with Creamy Polenta, I packed the meatballs full of flavor using a mix of dried spices, onions, garlic, and fresh parsley! Rather than pan-fry the meatballs, I chose to give them a quick sear in a skillet then popped them in the oven to bake the rest of the way. When they’re done, I smothered these Zesty Meatballs with a delicious, spicy marinara sauce to serve atop the polenta.
The polenta to accompany my Zesty Meatballs is similar to the polenta we’ve made together in the past. If you recall, the key to great polenta is to slowly add the cornmeal to the boiling water while whisking like a madman (or woman) for 2 minutes then let it sit, untouched until it’s done! We finish it with a pad of butter and high-quality, shredded parmesan cheese.
As for the greens, I chose a mix of rainbow chard and kale for the contrasting textures and the tenderness of the chard. They’re sauteed in a touch of olive oil and loaded with garlic! Mixed with the Zesty Chicken Meatballs with Creamy Polenta, the sauteed mixed greens lighten the overall meal!
My favorite part about this meal is plating the Zesty Chicken Meatballs with Creamy Polenta — watching the meatballs slowly sink into the creamy polenta, smothering everything with marinara sauce and freshly grated parm then brightening up the whole dish with the burst of sauteed chard and kale! It’s seriously a bowl of Italian love, hugs, and flavor.
Reader Note: After the recipes for my Zesty Meatballs with Creamy Polenta and Sautéed Mixed Greens, I’ve left a few tips on how to efficiently make this meal to help you perfect your cooking time and decrease the number of dishes used! Hope it helps!
- 1 pound ground chicken breast
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ½ medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons olive oil, separated
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
- 5 tablespoons breadcrumbs (panko, wheat, or seasoned)
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- additional parmesan cheese for serving, optional
- Preheat the oven to 425*F and lightly grease a roasting pan, set aside.
- Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the diced onion and minced garlic.
- Saute 5-7 minutes until softened.
- In a medium size mixing bowl, add the cooked onions and garlic, ground chicken, spices, parsley, breadcrumbs, ketchup, lemon zest, cheese, beaten egg, salt, and pepper.
- Using your hands, thoroughly combine the meatball mixture.
- Weigh out 2-ounce portions of meat and roll into balls (making 10-12 balls).
- Once complete, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil to the skillet placed over medium-high heat.
- Place the meatballs in the pan and sear on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side.
- Transfer the seared meatballs to the prepared roasting pan.
- Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meatballs reach 165*F
- Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.
- To plate the Zesty Meatballs with Polenta and Sautéed Mixed Greens, spoon polenta into the bottom of a bowl, place 3 meatballs on top with a ½ cup of marinara sauce and additional cheese if using. Add sauteed mixed greens to the side and serve immediately.
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¼-1/2 cup chicken stock
- In a medium saucepan, bring 1 teaspoon salt and 4 cups of water to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce stove to low and slowly add in the polenta whisking constantly during the addition so as not to form lumps
- Continue to whisk vigorously for 2 minutes then cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes
- Once 20 minutes has passed, remove the polenta from the heat whisk in the butter, cheese, and ¼ cup of chicken stock. If the polenta is still rather thick, add in an additional ¼ cup of stock.
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 head chard, roughly chopped
- 1 head kale, roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- In the same skillet as used to cook the onions & meatballs, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Add the minced garlic to the warming oil and let cook for 30 seconds.
- Add in the greens and toss to coat with the olive oil and garlic.
- Cook on medium-high for 3 minutes.
- Pour in the ¼ cup of water and immediately cover the skillet with a secure fitting lid.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and let the greens cook for 3-5 minutes until tender and wilted.
- Season with salt & pepper, serve immediately.
Although this recipe may look time-consuming and complicated, there’s no need to be intimidated! This recipe for Zesty Meatballs with Creamy Polenta and Sautéed Mixed Greens can be made with just a few key dishes and all made within an hour.
As much as I love homemade meals, I hate cleaning up so when I cook, I try to cook smart — meaning I work efficiently and dirty only the kitchen tools necessary to make the meal! Below I’ve outlined my smart cooking method that gets it all done without dirtying every dish in your kitchen and ensures the meal comes together on time!
1) Cook the onions and garlic for the meatballs in a large skillet
2) Make the meatballs and when it comes time to sear them, use the same pan you used to cook the onions then pop them in a roasting pan to bake in the oven while you make the polenta and greens.
4) In a large saucepan, bring the water for the polenta to a boil and while you’re waiting, prep the greens.
5) Stir the cornmeal into the polenta and let it cook for 20 minutes while you make the greens.
6) In the same frying pan you’ve been using, sauté the greens.
7) Wait for the meatballs and polenta to finish, warm the marinara sauce, and plate!