Polenta with beef ragù is a hearty meal that will satiate anyone’s appetite as well as offer a pleasant alternative to eating pasta. Polenta is as old as the Roman ruins; It actually originated in Ancient Rome and was cooked from farro (similar to barley). Today, polenta is commonly made from yellow or white ground cornmeal. As a result of its humble ingredients, polenta is still classified as a peasant dish in Italy. However, do not let this fool you — whether you add butter or Caciocavallo Podolico (one of the world’s most expensive cheeses), polenta can be as unassuming or as decadent as you want it to be. Polenta also has the stigma of being a food that requires your entire Saturday to cook. This is not necessarily true; this creamy concoction takes all of 15 minutes to whip up. Polenta can be eaten by itself as an appetizer or as a first course. However, I like to serve my polenta with a pile of heaping beef ragù on top.
Beef ragù is merely meat sauce. There are numerous variations on how to prepare ragù. One of my favorite ragu’s, a popular Tuscan variety, is made with wild boar. Wild boars are used primarily to dig up wild truffles in Northern Italy. However, boars are pigs and thus, many hunters have found that the boars are not only notorious for unearthing the truffles, but for eating them as well. As a result, many Italian truffle hunters have opted to training dogs to harvest the truffles instead. While wild boars are running rampant in the Tuscan hillside, they are not in the DC metro area. For this reason, I’ve always made my ragù with beef and probably will continue to do so until butchers around me start importing Italian boar.
- 1Bring the water to a boil. Add the salt and gradually whisk in the cornmeal.
- 2Reduce the heat to low and cook stirring often about 15 minutes or until the polenta becomes thick. Remove from the heat.
- 3Stir in the butter, cheese, basil, and truffle oil. Set aside and keep warm.
- 4In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic, and saute until softened about 10 minutes.
- 5Add the sage and beef, breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon. Raise the heat to high and cook until meat is browned about 5 minutes.
- 6Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and cook until liquid has evaporated about 3 minutes.
- 7Stir in 1.5 cup cold water and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes.
- 8Season again with salt and pepper. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer on low partially covered for another 30 minutes.
- 9Season again if needed. Serve ragù over the polenta and sprinkle with parmigiano cheese.
- 10For more recipes, check out http://happywhennothungry.wordpress.com/
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