The first time I had this dish was with my son Daniel. We were on a week long eating and walking tour of NYC. Daniel and I had both researched restaurants and pastry shops but one of the best meals we had, which was not on our list, was at Vinateria in Harlem. I ordered an amazing whole grilled Branzino and the young daughter of our friends had meatballs on a bed of Polenta. She gave me a bite and I dreamt about them for the next two days: tender little meatballs the size of a walnut on a creamy, cheesey bed of polenta with a bright tomatoe sauce. We went back the night before we left and when I returned home I vowed to recreate them as best I could.
So, here is my version and I think it’s pretty close, but it will never replace the meal I had at this neighborhood bistro with my son, my childhood friend, her lovely husband and charming daughter.
Many of these components can be made ahead of time. The sauce can be made in advance and frozen. I make a lot of this sauce in August when the tomatoes are at their peak and I can use locally grown Roma tomatoes. You will not get the same result with supermarket tomatoes. The meatballs can be mixed and shaped a day ahead of time and then rolled in flour and fried the day you want to serve. The meatballs can also be mixed, shaped fried and placed in the tomato sauce a day or two ahead. I think they actually improve with a 24 hour rest in the sauce. I have also frozen the meatnalls cooked and in sauce. They defrost quite well.