Polenta Mozzarella Balls with Spicy Marinara

Spicy, cheesy, creamy – what more could you want from a dish?! This recipe is inspired by Arancini – an Italian fried rice ball. Polenta on its own is like a warm hug, but adding melty mozzarella, really brings it to a new level. I decided to make a spicy marinara to cut through all the creaminess this dish offers and to really give it a kick! Whether you’re serving this as an appetizer or as a meal, it will please even the pickiest eater! My husband has never been a fan of polenta, but he couldn’t stop eating these! That is how delicious this recipe is. Try it yourself! If you’re not too keen on spice, just omit the crushed red pepper flakes.

  • 1 Can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1/4 Tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Oregano, divided
  • 1/3 Cup Red Wine
  • 3 Tbsp Fresh Basil, chiffonade, plus more for serving
  • 6 Garlic Cloves, divided, minced
  • 1 Cup Polenta
  • 4 Cups Vegetable Broth, or Chicken Broth for non-vegetarian
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 Ball Mozzarella, diced
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 Cup Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Breadcrumbs
  • Oil for frying
  • Optional: Freshly grated Parmesan for serving
  • Makes: 18-20 balls
  • Prep Time: 30 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 Hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours 30 Minutes

Step 1: In a large pot, add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to low-medium heat, add the polenta and whisk constantly until thickened. You want the polenta to be thick so it will hold together when frying.

Step 2: Remove polenta from heat and add 1/2 tbsp oregano, half of the minced garlic, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper (about 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper). Allow the polenta to completely cool (about 30 minutes). Once cooled, transfer to the refrigerator and keep chilled until ready to use.

Step 3: While the polenta is cooling, in a medium pot add the crushed tomatoes, wine, red pepper, fresh basil, remaining oregano, remaining minced garlic, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper – adjust salt and pepper to taste. Simmer on low heat for 1-2 hours, stirring frequently. This will allow the flavors to combine and make the sauce very delicious! If you’re in a crunch for time, you can combine all the ingredients and simmer long enough to heat it up – but I promise, it’s worth the wait.

Step 4: When the sauce is about half way through cooking, start forming the balls. Remove the polenta from the refrigerator – take a large scoop (about 1/8 cup), make a pocket with your thumb and add a piece of mozzarella. Cover the mozzarella completely and form in to a ball. Repeat this step until all the polenta has been used. Should form about 18-20 balls.

Step 5: Once all the polenta has been formed, place in the freezer for 15 minutes to begin to harden., this will help keep its shape. In the meantime, get 3 separate bowls for the eggs, flour and breadcrumbs.

Step 6: Take the ball and thoroughly coat with the flour. Then dunk in the egg, and finally the breadcrumbs. Repeat this with all the balls. Once all the balls have been coated, place back in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.

Step 7: While the balls are in the freezer, heat a deep pot of oil on high heat. You want the temperature to reach 350 degrees Fahrenheit before you being frying. Once the oil is hot, add the balls to the oil – but make sure to not over crowd or they will not fry evenly (I did 3 balls per batch). Fry each batch for 5-7 minutes, until they are golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to soak up any excess oil.

Step 8: Once all balls have been fried, serve with the spicy sauce! Top with fresh parmesan and basil and enjoy!

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