Polenta on the table (Polenta alla Spianatora)


Polenta on the table

Polenta on the table

It's incredibly easy, much easier than you would think and of course the biggest bonus is less dishes to wash up (always good in my book). And of course you could use any other meat aside from pork or you could substitute the quantity of meat with mushrooms or other vegetables to make a vegetarian version.

Polenta on the table

Usually the best weather for this is Autumn or Winter as it's a deliciously warming dish but I mentioned it to my friend M a few months ago and she was enthusiastic. So I invited her and her boys who I knew would love this way of eating over. Need I point out how fun it is for kids to eat this way, they'll think they've died and gone to heaven, although with 2 hungry and rambunctious boys, we needed to put down some place mats to ensure that our dining table didn't get ruined with trails of polenta and ragu (although we resorted to giving them small plates in the end). We told them that if anyone broke the "retaining wall" of polenta before the centre and bottom polenta was scooped out then the game was lost. This ensured that the boys didn't do what boys love to do and that seems to be destroying or smashing up things (which in turn saved my dining table).

Polenta on the table

_Inti, with his ragu streaked right cheek enjoying himself _

Polenta on the table

An original recipe by Not Quite Nigella

Polenta on the table

Serves 4

For the polenta

  • 350g instant polenta

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 3 tablespoon butter

  • 2 litres water

For the ragu

  • 1 kg pork (not too lean) cut into small pieces

  • 1 onion chopped

  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced

  • 100ml white wine

  • 1/2 cup tomato paste

  • 400g mushrooms, sliced

  • 400g tin diced tomatoes

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • oil for frying

  • 6-7 basil leaves, torn

You will also need a Spianatora or a large wooden chopping board (not one that you cut raw meat on)

Step 1 - In a large pot or saucepan, cook the onion until becoming translucent, then brown theĀ  pork pieces in oil on high heat. If they release too much water, drain and reserve the liquid from the pot and then continue to brown. Add mushrooms, garlic, white wine and tomato paste in and cook for 15 minutes.

Polenta on the table

The pork ragu

Step 2 - Then add the tin of diced tomatoes, white wine vinegar and sugar and cook for 45 minutes until pork is very tender and soft. Add basil leaves in at the last minute.

Polenta on the table

Polenta poured on the Spianatora (ahem chopping board)

Step 3 - If you're using regular polenta it will take up to 30 minutes stirring and cooking. However I used instant polenta which only take 5-6 minutes which means that I can start the polenta when the ragu is ready. When the ragu is ready, boil the water in a medium to large pot and add salt. Stir in polenta with a flat bottomed wooden soon (to help ensure that the polenta doesn't stick to the bottom). Stir in butter once it thickens up (about 3 minutes into cooking it) and keep stirring it so that it doesn't stick.

Polenta on the table

Shaping the polenta with the base of a ladle

Step 4 - Have your clean chopping board or spianatora ready and scoop the polenta onto the chopping board ensuring that you don't go too close to the edge. Using the base of a ladle press down on the centre and build a higher wall of polenta around the outside of the circle. Ladle the ragu into the centre and give everyone a fork to dig in!

Polenta on the table