Perhaps one of the best parts of being in the wine industry is the emphasis on food and finding the perfect recipes to match our wines, whether it’s for pairing or cooking. Elevate your meal when you use wine from Napa wineries and kick it up a notch next time you’re in charge of dinner.

The winter season calls for a hearty recipe to fill us with warmth while the holidays bring about a need for red wine. We’re excited to share with you this Lamb recipe by Chef Mathew Accarrino, which incorporates the use of our Merlot. Impress your loved ones with this meal and pair with your favorite Hill Family Estate wine.

Lamb Meatballs with Tomato, Black Olive and Soft Polenta

Serves 4




2 uncooked bacon strips, minced

1 red onion, minced

6 garlic cloves, crushed

¾ cup dry red wine (we prefer Hill Family Estate Merlot)

1 28-oz can crushed San Marzano tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato paste

4 thyme sprigs

2 rosemary sprigs



1 lb lamb or beef, ground

½ cup breadcrumbs, dry

½ cup ricotta cheese

¼ cup pecorino cheese, grated

1 egg

2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

¼ tsp ground cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

Salt & pepper, as needed



1 cup polenta (dry coarse ground cornmeal)

3 cups water

1 cup milk

Salt & pepper, as needed

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

Pecorino cheese, grated, as needed



¼ cup black olives, like Gaeta or Kalamata

Mint leaves, as needed

Pecorino cheese, grated, as needed

Olive oil & black pepper, as needed


  • First, prepare the braising base for the lamb meatballs. In a large oven-safe casserole/Dutch oven, begin by cooking the minced bacon in a small amount of olive oil over medium heat. Add the red onion and season lightly with salt. Cook until the red onion is soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, then deglaze with wine and cook for a few minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Tie the rosemary and thyme together with kitchen twine, bring the sauce to a simmer and add to the braising liquid. Simmer while you make the meatballs.
  • For the meatballs, combine the ground meat, breadcrumbs, ricotta, pecorino, egg, parsley, cumin and paprika in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Season with salt and pepper. Using a small sauté pan with just a bit of olive oil sauté a small test patty to check for seasoning. Correct the seasoning if necessary. Form the desired size meatballs; this is best done with a scoop or tablespoon to ensure even sizing. Place the meatballs in a lightly sprayed oven-safe sauté pan and broil on high until browned, about 5 minutes. This initial step will set the shape of the meatballs.
  • When the meatballs have been browned transfer to the tomato braising liquid. Place a parchment cover on the casserole pan and transfer to an oven at 350-degrees. Braise the meatballs in the sauce for about 40 minutes.
  • While the meatballs are braising, make the polenta. Combine the milk and water in a medium pot and bring to a simmer. Whisk continually as you carefully scatter in the polenta to avoid lumps. The polenta will thicken as it comes to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, turn the heat down and cook the polenta slowly until it is tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Finish the polenta with butter, olive oil and pecorino cheese (to your liking). Set aside.
  • Remove the herbs from the braised meatballs and add the olives. To serve, place a spoon of the polenta onto a shallow bowl or plate. Top with a few meatballs and some of the braising sauce and olives. Garnish with mint leaves, pecorino cheese, olive oil and black pepper.

Pair with your favorite Napa Valley red wine (we hope it’s one of ours) and Bon Appetit! Make sure to share your culinary creation and let us know what you think.

Learn More About the Chef

Mathew Accarrino is the nationally recognized executive chef of SQPR in San Francisco. Although born in the Midwest and raised on the East Coast, Chef Accarrino made his way to California in 2007. Drawing inspiration from his Italian background, personal experiences, and classical training with top chefs, he has developed his own unique style that utilizes California’s fresh ingredients. Chef’s direct involvement with sourcing, producing, and even creating these fine ingredients results in an extremely personal cuisine that generates critical praise. Under his direction, SQPR was awarded a Michelin star for eight consecutive years and he has been nominated five times for the James Beard Award for “Best Chef: West.” In 2014, he was named “Best New Chef” by Food and Wine Magazine. In October 2012, he co-authored and released his first book, SQRP: Modern Italian Food and Wine.

Our Napa winery is excited to bring you tasty recipes so stay up to date and follow our blog for more delicious opportunities to pair great food with wine.