Polenta Campagnolo

Polenta is a cornmeal “mush” that is a perfect base for a tomato or other sauce and a nice alternative to pasta. The possibilities for enjoyment are limited only by your imagination. Have some fun and try it with your favorite cooked vegetables stirred in before serving, then topped with a dollop of ricotta cheese on top or a little grated Asiago or other cheese. And do try it chilled and then pan-fried the next day for breakfast, topped with a little apricot fruit spread.

When making polenta, use caution because it “erupts” like a volcano as it boils and can burn you if you are not careful. I always use a deep pot set on the back burner of the stove, and I wear long oven mitts and use a long whisk to stay protected. Be careful.

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Ingredients

Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large organic yellow onion
  • 5 large cloves organic garlic, sliced
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • ¼ small organic jalapeño pepper, chopped
  • 6 large leaves organic basil
  • ¼ cup chopped organic Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 1 6-ounce can organic tomato paste
  • cup red wine
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ pound assorted mushrooms, sliced (about 4 heaping cups; I like to use cremini, oyster, portobello or button)
  • 4 meatless Italian sausage links, cut into 1-inch slices
  • 1 14-ounce can chopped organic tomatoes
  • 6 pitted and halved oil-cured black olives

Polenta

  • 8 cups water
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • ½-1 cup ricotta cheese (optional)

Method

  1. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, carrot, jalapeño, basil, and parsley. Sprinkle lightly (the sausage and olives that you add later tend to be salty) with sea salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened but are not burned. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is well blended and begins to darken a bit. Add the wine and the water, the mushrooms, sausages, tomatoes, and olives. Stir well to combine. Cover and cook at a medium boil, stirring frequently, for about 12 minutes, until the sauce has reduced slightly. Taste for seasonings. Cover and set aside while you make the polenta.
  2. To make the polenta, measure the water into a heavy 8-quart pot set on the back burner over high heat. When it reaches a boil, add a little sea salt and pepper. Slowly and carefully pour the cornmeal in a stream into the boiling water with one hand while whisking continuously with the other hand. After the cornmeal is added, reduce the heat to medium and continue whisking the boiling polenta for about 3-5 minutes. Turn onto a serving dish. Using the bottom of a large spoon, create a well in the center of the polenta, then spoon the sauce into the well. Spoon ricotta cheese on top if desired. Serve hot.

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