Polenta is one of those Italian staples from the cold northern regions of the country, which has never become as popular, outside of the areas of its origin, as other Italian specialties. Made with cornmeal, trickled into boiling salted water and stirred until thick and cooked through, the resulting, very thick porridge is then cut into slabs or poured into a bowl and served alongside a stew or with cheese, fish, or vegetables. It is very much a dish that belongs to the country’s poorer past when bread and meat were rare. Traditionally wet polenta would be poured onto a board in the center of a table and everyone would dive in and help themselves—real rustic eating! This classic combination of hot polenta served in slabs with beans and sausages simmered together like a casserole would have kept both hunger and cold at bay for many households during the course of Italy’s checkered past.
As an alternative, you can leave the polenta to go completely cold, then slice as required and broil, fry, or bake. Serve the sausages and beans poured over a wedge of the freshly sliced polenta.
© 2008 Valentina Harris. All rights reserved.