Turkey meatballs baked with creamy rounds of polenta are smothered with mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil in this easy but impressive sheet-pan dinner.
Turkey meatballs baked with polenta & mozzarella will make you feel like you've put together an amazing dinner for your family.
But just between you and me, this recipe is incredibly easy.
You can make this meal in 4 east steps:
When the mozzarella is warm and cheesy, garnish liberally with fresh basil.
What to serve with this meal? I put the sheet-pan right on the table with a big basket of garlic bread to sop it all up. I suggest you do the same!
Let's Talk Meatballs
Frozen Meatballs: This recipe can also be made using pre-cooked frozen meatballs, either your favorite store-bought meatballs or a homemade batch stashed in the freezer. Baking instructions for frozen meatballs are slightly different, so make sure to read the recipe card below for details.
What is Polenta?
Polenta is the name of a dish you make, not an ingredient. To make polenta, the main ingredient is cornmeal.
Cornmeal is made by grinding dried corn kernels. It is sold in three textures: fine, medium, and coarse.
So, are polenta and cornmeal the same thing?
Yes. Traditionally, polenta is made from coarse ground cornmeal. However, sometimes packages of cornmeal that are labeled as “polenta” are really medium-ground cornmeal.
To make polenta, you can buy inexpensive cornmeal (like Albers, which is medium/fine ground), or you can buy a brand like Bob's Red Mill Cornmeal which is course ground (Bob's also sell's fine and medium ground cornmeal). Course ground cornmeal gives polenta a richer corn flavor and texture.
What are grits made out of?
Grits are also made from course ground cornmeal, either yellow or white.
Traditionally, the cornmeal used to make polenta and grits comes from two different varieties of corn. These two varieties are milled in different ways. This is what gives traditional Italian polenta and traditional Southern grits their distinct flavor and texture.
Sometimes you'll see course ground cornmeal labeled as both polenta and grits, like Bob's Red Mill Grits Polenta.
Firm or Creamy Polenta?
Polenta can be served either firm and sliceable or soft and creamy.
This recipe uses firm polenta, the type that is pre-cooked and sold in a tube. Tubes of polenta are really convenient. Slices can be fried in a pan, grilled, or warmed in the oven. This type of polenta can be a little bland, so make sure to serve it with flavorful toppings or side dishes.
You can make firm polenta at home by following almost any polenta recipe, then spreading the warm polenta in an oiled pan and chilling it until firm. A recipe with 3 or 4 cups water to 1 cup cornmeal will set into firm polenta when chilled for several hours.
Creamy polenta is served warm, ideally right after being made. A recipe with 4 or more cups water to 1 cup cornmeal will make creamy, soft polenta.
For extra creamy polenta, stir in warm milk or cream, cheese, and/or butter after the polenta is made.
Many recipes make polenta by cooking it slowly on the stovetop until it thickens (for about 1 hour). I prefer the much more convenient method of creamy oven-baked polenta.
More Ground Turkey Recipes
Turkey Meatballs Baked with Polenta and Mozzarella
Turkey meatballs baked with polenta and mozzarella is an impressive and easy sheet-pan dinner! I serve this meal with garlic bread on the side.
This recipe can also be made with any of your favorite meatball recipes. To make this dinner really easy, use frozen store-bought meatballs.
- Prep Time: 15
- Cook Time: 20
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x
- Category: sheet-pan
- Method: bake
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Gluten Free
- One batch uncooked Turkey meatballs (or frozen pre-cooked meatballs, see cooking notes below)
- 1 18-ounce log pre-cooked polenta, sliced into ½-inch thick rounds (about 12 slices)
- 1 25 to 28 ounce jar store-bought marinara sauce (I usually only use ¾ of the sauce)
- 1 8-ounce container small mozzarella balls (ciliegine) or 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (see notes below about mozzarella)
- Fresh basil
- Heat oven to 400 F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment or foil, or coat with non-stick cooking spray.
- Set the sliced rounds of polenta on the sheet pan, evenly spaced.
- Set the meatballs on the sheet pan, around the polenta.
- Mist the polenta and meatballs with cooking spray (I like Trader Joe’s olive oil spray)
- Bake 15 minutes, then remove the sheet pan from the oven. The meatballs will have released some fat and juice; this is fine and will add flavor to the marinara sauce.
- Pour or spoon marinara sauce over and around the meatballs and polenta. Use as much as you like - I usually use ¾ of a jar.
- Place a mozzarella ball on top of each polenta round. Set any extra mozzarella balls right on the sheet pan, around the meatballs. If using grated mozzarella, scatter it evenly over the sheet-pan.
- Continue baking until the marinara sauce is hot, the cheese is soft and melted and the meatballs are 165 F, about 5 to 8 more minutes.
- Top with fresh basil before serving.
- I let the sheet-pan cool slightly, then put it directly in the table as the serving platter.
Frozen Meatballs: If using frozen meatballs, lower the oven temperature to 325 F and cover the sheet-pan of meatballs and polenta with foil. Foil helps keep moisture locked in, preventing pre-cooked meatballs from drying out. Frozen meatballs can take up to 30 minutes to re-heat. When the meatballs are warmed all the way through, remove the foil from the pan and proceed with the recipe as written.
Mozzarella: Small mozzarella balls (ciliegine) are fun and easy for this recipe. However, any type of fresh mozzarella, like ciliegine, will release some water while it melts. This will make the sheet-pan just slightly watery, but not overly so. Grated mozzarella cheese is fine to use as well, and will be more like regular melted cheese. Also delicous!
Keywords: turkey meatballs, polenta, baked polenta, turkey and zucchini meatballs,