Monday, January 2, 2012

Polenta with Meat Sauce

I haven't posted on a savory meal lately, and the other night when we had Polenta with Meat Sauce, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share it with you guys. Billy, my husband, has loved polenta for a long time, and even on one of our first dates, he cooked it for me with a tomato sauce. It was my first experience with it, and I have loved it ever since.

Polenta is creamy and becomes somewhat gelatinous when it cools, which is more like the texture of the store bought version. You can make it more firm or more creamy. I prefer the more firm version, which is the recipe I've included below. It's made from cornmeal, parmesan, olive oil, salt, and water; a wonderful alternative to pastas and other starches.

The meat sauce, or quick-cooking Bolognese, is also simple to make, yet delicious. The sauce is silky and has a nice depth of flavor, due to the spices and the white wine. All-in-all a great meal because of its simplicity and its heartiness.

Polenta with Meat Sauce
Serves: 4 Time: 30-45 minutes
Cook's Note: I substituted ground beef instead of using the original recommendation of Italian sausage. I modified it to be easier on the pocket book. You can of course use mild Italian sausage, casings removed, for a richer sauce.
Adapted from Quick from Scratch Italian Cook Book, a Food and Wine publication, 2009.

Ingredients:
Sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef*
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
1, 15 ounce can stewed tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
3/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth, use low sodium brands or homemade stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
1/4 tsp ground pepper
3 tbsp cream

Polenta:
4 1/2  cups water
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups cornmeal
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp parmesan, grated, plus more for serving

How To:
1) In a large pan over medium-high heat, heat the tablespoon of olive oil. Add the beef, break it up with a wooden spoon, and brown until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain the grease out of the pan, return to stove top.

2) Turn heat down to medium heat. Add carrots, onion, and garlic. Cook until crisp tender, about 5 minutes. Add white wine and let it simmer with the mixture for 3 minutes to soak in the flavors.

3) Add tomatoes, tomato paste, broth, bay leaf, salt, and most of the parsley. Cover pan and let mixture simmer for 15 minutes.

4) While mixture simmers, begin Polenta. In a medium pot, add water and salt, and bring to a boil. Once water is boiling, add cornmeal in a steady stream, whisking as you add. Turn heat down to medium. Add the olive oil. Continue to stir the polenta as it thickens. Let it thicken for about 15 minutes, simmering. Add parmesan and turn off heat.

5) Back to the meat sauce. Remove the bay leaf, add pepper, cream, and remaining parsley. Stir until cream is evenly distributed.

To Serve: Plate with polenta, and spoon the meat sauce over it. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and serve. Enjoy!

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