Polenta with Tomato Sauce and Sausage
Polenta con sugo di pomodoro e salsiccia
Polenta is cooked corn meal, and when cooked properly it is a creamy, delicious accompaniment to many dishes. It can be used in place of potatoes, rice or noodles. A creamier, looser consistency can be used to lap up sauces or a firmer consistency can be sliced and fried or grilled. It can be made plain or with various herbs and cheeses. All you need to start with is a basic corn meal, whatever brand you prefer. There is no reason to buy any special polenta mix or the ready made polenta. Fresh made from corn meal is the best, and it is easy to do. I am sharing with you the polenta that my family made. We only ate this once or twice a year, but it was so special to us that it became our tradition for New Year’s Day. I still carry on the tradition today.
Occasionally my family would make the polenta and invite our friends and neighbors over to join us. It was a special occasion to make the polenta. My father cooked the corn meal, and my mother made the tomato sauce with Italian sausage to put on top. The special thing about our polenta was the way in which we served it. Once it was ready, Dad spread the polenta onto the pasta board that was placed in the middle of the dining room table. The board measured about 3’x 4′. On top of the polenta Mom spread the tomato sauce and in the middle of the board she would place the chunks of Italian sausage. It was always a race to the middle to get the delicious prize.
Serving the polenta on the board was a tradition that my father’s family brought from Abruzzo. This is the way he grew up eating it. The board was the perfect vessel for it because the wood would absorb the moisture of the polenta, which made it set up perfectly to hold the sauce and toppings. Eating the polenta in this manner was a memorable experience. Dad was a stickler for making us try to form the map of Italy out of the polenta (we were not always successful). It was also important to keep the board clean. He would demonstrate to us how to eat it. “Take the fork and slice through the polenta like this”, he would say. “Then pick it up and be sure to get it all. Use the side of the fork and clean up any remaining polenta.” It brought the family together (and at times even friends). As children we thought is was fun eating this way, and I still see the same enthusiasm and excitement in my great nieces and nephews when we serve it today.
Ingredients for polenta:
2 – cups yellow corn meal
7 – cups water
2 – tsp. salt
1 – tbls. olive oil
Ingredients to top the polenta:
Tomato sauce made with Italian sausage (use 2 lbs. of sausage for this recipe)
Pecorino Romano Cheese – to taste
Bring the water and olive oil to a boil in a large pot. Once it is boiling, gradually sprinkle in the corn meal while whisking vigorously to avoid lumps until all the corn meal is incorporated. Reduce the heat to medium, add the salt and continue whisking while the corn meal cooks and begins to thicken. This should only take about 5-6 minutes. Continue cooking for about 30 minutes, stirring often so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Add more water if it starts to dry out. Cook until the corn meal is thick and creamy and tender to the bite.
Pour out the polenta onto a large wooden board (you can serve it on individual plates if you prefer),
and spread it evenly to about 1/3″ thick.
Spread the tomato sauce on top of the polenta.
Slice the sausage into bite-sized pieces and add them to the polenta, distributing them evenly. Top off with pecorino-romano cheese.
All you need is a fork to enjoy this delicious meal. Make a slice with the fork, then slide the fork underneath to lift it up.
Makes 4-6 servings