Welcome to the first of a two-part mini-series showcasing the versatility of polenta. It's a form of ground cornmeal that's popular in the North of Italy but not quite so well-known over here (yet). It's one of those staples you can have stashed in your store cupboard along with your pasta, rice and potatoes. The texture is like creamy mashed potato, though it tastes very different. In this case, I've used it as an alternative to the latter.
This is the kind of dish I can imagine Tony Soprano sitting down to after a hard day's work. And by work, I mean shooting people in the kneecaps for money they owe him.
Ingredients to feed four fat Mafiosi:
- 300g polenta
- 12 good quality garlicky sausages
- 2 medium onions
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- Generous drizzle of Worcestershire sauce (I do love precise measurements)
- 4 garlic cloves
- A few sprigs of thyme tied together
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 large carrot
- 1 stick of celery
- 50g butter
- 25g Parmesan
- 250ml Chianti
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat up a large frying pan. Peel your onions into half moons and leave them to one side for now. Finely dice the celery, then peel and finely chop the garlic cloves.
- Add some oil to the pan and sear your sausages on all sides on a high heat. Remove them to a plate.
- Reduce the heat, then chuck in your onions with a knob of butter and the sugar. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper.
- When the onions have caramelised nicely, turn the heat back up and add your celery and garlic and grate the carrot in. When the garlic is fragrant, add the tomato puree, letting it cook in the centre of the pan for a bit to take the edge off it. Stir it all together, then deglaze the pan with the wine.
- When the wine has reduced by about half, add your tomatoes, bay leaves and thyme and throw the sausages back in. Simmer for at least half an hour until the sausages are cooked.
- Get a measuring jug and measure out one part polenta to four parts cold water. Bring it to the boil in a saucepan and then reduce it to a simmer. Stir it frequently for at least half an hour, making sure you give it a good scrape on the bottom of the pan. When it's finished, add the remaining butter and grate in the parmesan.
- Do a cool Masterchef swipe with the polenta and arrange the sausages on top like the picture says. Serve with a bottle of Chianti and two Russian prostitutes.