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Chicken Meatballs with Polenta and Marinara

May 9, 2023

This is the kind of dinnertime trifecta we love to see: meatballs with creamy polenta and a bright and juicy marinara (store-bought is perfect). Dinner is served.


  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Dinner
homemade chicken meatballs with polenta topped with shaved parmesan and marinara in a bowl with a spoon
Photography by Gayle McLeod

Chicken Meatballs, Meet Creamy Polenta

This is one of those recipes where each element is good enough to stand on its own, and all together becomes a work of art. There’s many reasons to love this recipe, but the best part is that it transforms simple ingredients into a really fabulous meal. Ground chicken meatballs are a more budget-friendly meat to use compared to pork and beef meatballs and paired with polenta and jar of marinara sauce becomes a hearty, delicious meal.

ground chicken, eggs, parmesan, basil, bread crumbs, marinara sauce and spices in bowls to make chicken meatballs

Polenta, Our Favorite (Secretly Corn) Grain

Once you learn how to make polenta, you’ll find yourself with a pot bubbling away on the stove more often than you expected. It’s extremely versatile, and serves as a great backdrop for meat and vegetable dishes. We use this basic polenta recipe as a framework for the best creamy polenta. You’ll simmer the polenta in chicken or vegetable stock and whole milk. Add to that unsalted butter (1 stick) and 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper and you have a fail-proof pot of polenta to add to your next meal.

ground chicken, salt, egg, fennel seeds, Parmesan, garlic, basil, and bread crumbs in a glass bowl
ground chicken, salt, egg, fennel seeds, Parmesan, garlic, basil, and bread crumbs mixed together in a glass bowl
raw homemade chicken meatballs on a parchment lined baking sheet
homemade baked chicken meatballs on a parchment lined baking sheet

More Ways To Make Meatballs

Meatball newbie? You’ve come to the right place! We’ve made a million and one meatballs between the two of us, and we created a roundup with all of our tips here (find a cozy seat, there’s 18!): Best Meatball Recipes. Some of our favorites include classics like Spaghetti and Meatballs, Meatball Sub Sandwich, Buffalo Chicken Meatballs. There’s also tons of creative versions like Turkey Meatballs in a Creamy Red Curry Sauce and Baked Teriyaki Meatballs with Roasted Broccoli. Love the flavor of chicken parmesan and think that chicken parmesan meatballs with tomato sauce would be a good idea? We got you. This recipe combines the best of both worlds. What to pair with marinara will never be a problem you face after you get this recipe on the table! You can also make a vegetarian version, by substituting our Vegetarian Meatballs recipe.

polenta being poured into a pot with milk and chicken stock
polenta, milk, chicken stock, butter and parmesan being cooked in a pot
homemade polenta in a pot made with milk, chicken stock, butter, parmesan, salt and pepper
homemade chicken meatballs with polenta and marinara in a bowl surrounded by bowls of more meatballs, polenta, and marinara

Tools You’ll Need

We Mentioned That We’re Good At Making Meatballs

We’ve lost count of the various meatball recipes we’ve made over the years, but if you too love meatball recipes we have quite the catalog. And if you’re looking for more polenta recipes, check out our Creamy Polenta Recipe for more tips, and here’s some other great ideas for your next polenta meal:

A serving bowl full of chicken meatballs with polenta and marinara being dished up into bowls next to a bowl of parmesan

Uno, Due, Tre, Quattro - Andiamo!

Did you make these chicken meatballs with polenta and marinara? Once you get the swing of meatball making, we’d love to see a snap of your creations and maybe even a video of the beautiful people you feed it to. Tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper. Happy eating!

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Chicken Meatballs with Polenta and Marinara

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  20 min
  • Cook Time:  45 min
  • Calories: 640



  • 1½ pounds ground chicken
  • 1½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds (optional)
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup minced fresh basil, plus more for serving
  • ½ cup bread crumbs or gluten-free bread crumbs
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce or homemade

Creamy Polenta

  • 3½ cups chicken stock
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • 1 cup stone ground polenta
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the center position. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.

  2. Make the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, salt, egg, fennel seeds (if using), Parmesan, garlic, basil, and bread crumbs. Mix well, then with wet hands, form golf ball–size meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each) and place on the prepared sheet pan. You should have about 15 meatballs.

  3. Bake the meatballs for about 25 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.

  4. Meanwhile, make the polenta. In a medium pot bring the chicken stock and milk to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and stir in the polenta. Simmer, stirring, until tender and creamy, 30-40 minutes. Stir in the butter and Parmesan and season with salt and pepper.

  5. Add the marinara to a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until warmed through, about 3-5 minutes.

  6. Divide the polenta between bowls. Top with the marinara and meatballs. Sprinkle with remaining basil and Parmesan before serving.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories640
  • Protein58 g
  • Carbohydrates24 g
  • Total Fat34 g
  • Dietary Fiber1 g
  • Cholesterol253 mg
  • sodium1619 mg
  • Total Sugars5 g

Chicken Meatballs with Polenta and Marinara

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Oscar

    Can you substitute whole milk for oat or soy milk?

    Oat milk would probably work but get a full fat or creamy version to get the consistency as close as possible. Hope you enjoy Oscar!

  • Darlene

    Would these meatballs work with ground beef as well as chicken?


  • Alice

    You really cook the polenta for 30-40 minutes? That seems far too long.

    Yep, that is correct.

  • Christine

    Would it still work if I doubled the recipe? I have dinner for 8 tomorrow.


  • Angela

    Might be a silly question! But if I have all the ingredients to make this, minus polenta, can I substitute it for something else? Or possibly leave it out?

    You can serve the meatballs and marinara over pasta or rice if you'd like. Or just serve as is with a side salad, vegetable or bread! Enjoy.

  • Ryan

    Delicious! I added crushed red pepper into the marinara for an extra kick

    Thanks Ryan, we are so glad you love it!

  • Erin

    This was so delicious! We splurged for a fancier Parmesan and used the Raos limited edition sauce and those just made the dish even better. Can’t wait to make again

    Thanks Erin, we are so glad you loved it!

  • Allison

    Delicious! First time making polenta and it was creamy, belly filling warmth. I would check meatballs around 15 minutes if they’re smaller.
    Perfect winter meal!

    Thanks Allison, we are so happy you loved it!

  • Tiffany

    Wow! Just, wow! Delicious. Whole family loved.

    Thanks Tiffany, we are so happy it was a hit for the whole family!

  • Laura

    Loved the idea of the recipe! I did my meatballs for 20mins, and my meatballs were overcooked and dry. So I would recommend less cook time on the meatballs. Otherwise, the polenta was very easy and using store bought marinara was the play.

    Darn! I wonder if your meatballs were a bit smaller in size than ours or your oven might run hotter than the one we tested in. Obviously it sounds like you figured out how to fix it for next time though! Glad you enjoyed it otherwise!