Polenta is simply, coarsely ground cornmeal. The classic ratio is 1 part polenta to 4 parts water, though we like to measure the polenta just a little scant of a full cup. You can use vegetable or chicken broth instead of water.
Polenta may be served as a hot porridge, or it may be allowed to cool and solidify into a loaf that can be baked, fried, or grilled and is a perfect base for any kind of marinara sauce, or meat or mushroom ragu.
Braised Radicchio and Polenta
- 1 cup Polenta
- 4 cups water or stock
- 3 Teaspoons salt
- 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 4 Radicchio, halved
- 3 Tablespoons honey
- 4 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Fresh ground pepper (to taste)
Bring the water/stock to a boil in a medium stainless steel pot. Slowly stir in the polenta to avoid lumps. Add in the salt. Turn heat down to a simmer and allow to cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring every minute or so. Be careful of splatter and use a lid on the pot as needed.
When the polenta is thick and tender to the bite, pour into an oiled sheet pan, so that the thickness will be about a 3/4 inch and allow to cool completely until firm.
Cut 3 inch square pieces and grill well on one side.
In about an inch of water with the honey and the Balsamic Vinegar mixed in thoroughly, braise the halved heads of Radicio, until just wilted,
Drain off the liquid well and place the Radicchio on top of the grilled squares of Polenta, garnish the whole plate with a drizzle of the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Borlotti Bean and Pasta Soup
- 1/2 lb dried Borlotti beans, soaked for 12 hours
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 onion
- 1 celery stalk
- 1/2 lb fresh or canned tomatoes
- 1/2 lb Cavatelli or short pasta
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Place soaked beans in 6 cups of water in a large saucepan.
Add bay leaves, bring to boil and reduce to low-medium heat. Cover saucepan and allow beans to cook for 30-45 minutes or until beans are getting noticeably more tender (Note: with dried beans, it may take longer).
While beans are cooking, finely dice onion and chop celery stalk.
Heat olive oil in large pan and add onion and celery. Cook until vegetables are noticeably softened and fragrant.
Crush, or pass tomatoes through a sieve or food mill and add them to pan.
Allow tomatoes to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
With a slotted spoon, begin adding beans to the pan and stir to mix. Once all beans are simmering, add the bean-cooking liquid to pan.
Leave soup to simmer on low-medium heat until beans are tender.
Remove a cupful of beans from pan and blend in a food mixer until smooth and pureed. Return pureed mixture to pan and season with salt and pepper.
In a separate saucepan, bring water to boil. Add pasta and cook for one minute less than the recommended cooking time. When that time is up, drain pasta in a colander and add pasta to soup. Cook and infuse in soup for one more minute. Remove from heat.
Serve in bowls with a little extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top.
Serves 4 to 6
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound mixed mushrooms (cremini, oyster, shiitake) chopped
- Porcini & Salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup Marsala, or Dry Sherry
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
In a large skillet heat the olive oil. When almost smoking, add the onions and garlic over medium-low heat until the onions have wilted, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with the Porcini & Salt and pepper. Raise heat to high and saute until mushrooms are tender and all the liquid has evaporated. Remove the pan from heat and pour in the Marsala (or dry sherry). Return pan to heat and allow wine to evaporate, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and simmer for 1/2 hour until the sauce has reduced by half. Add heavy cream and mix well. Take the pan off the heat and add the fresh herbs and Parmesan and mix thoroughly.
Serve over a bed of polenta or pasta.