I’ve been obsessed with polenta since my return from Italy. Whether if it’s served pan-fried or creamy, this simple cornmeal staple just ooozes of “comfort”.
I like to drown my polenta with the finest extra virgin olive oil and watch the virescence drip from my fork as I lift it. For me, the magic lies in the way polenta radiates heat from my tummy to the rest of my body for hours.
Polenta, the ultimate comfort food, meet your opponent: Ragù.
Nothing bad can ever come of simmering ground meat until it melds into a hearty sauce that blesses anything it falls upon.
The beauty of a true comfort food is that it can be created from pantry staples and whatever one manages to round up. For me, it’s a package of frozen ground beef, a can of whole tomatoes, onion and garlic, and some dried herbs. I always have an opened bottle of wine handy.
As I scrounged through my fridge, I found a bottle of forgotten pimento olives, half a daikon, and some edamame beans (fresh soy beans).
hmmm… should I? I looked at my awkward ingredients with half hesitation and half curiosity.
What would the Italians think?
I remind myself once more that I’m no longer Italy and I think I’m getting hungry.
- 1 lb ground meat
- 1 large can of whole tomatoes, seeds removed
- 1 small onion, diced finely
- 1/2 bottle leftover red wine
- 1/2 small daikon, diced
- 1/2 cup shelled edamame
- 1/2 cup pimento olives, chopped
- 1 tbs brown sugar
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbs dried oregano
- olive oil, salt and pepper
- 1 cup of polenta/ coarse ground cornmeal
- 3 cups of chicken stock
- 3 cups of water
- 1 dried sage stock (or herb of choice)
- 2 shallots, minced
- extra virgin olive oil, salt
First, cook the polenta (video post available).
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Sweat the shallots with some olive oil for one minute in an oven-safe pot. Add the chicken stock, water, 2 tsp salt, and the sage and bring to a boil.
Slowly add the polenta while whisking quickly to prevent lumps. Once the polenta is thoroughly mixed in, cover the pot and place it into the oven for 40 minutes, stirring once every 15 minutes to prevent sticking at the bottom.
Meanwhile, prepare the Ragù.
Strain the tomato juice into a small saucepan and simmer until it is reduced it by half. Reserve the flesh.
In a deep pan, sweat the onion and garlic for one minute in olive oil over medium heat. Turn to medium-high heat and add the ground meat and cook until lightly brown, about 5-8 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and cook for 5 more minutes.
Add the tomato flesh, the reduced juice, the sugar, dried oregano, and the bay leaf to the meat. Cover and simmer slowly for 20 minutes, stirring periodically.
While the meat simmers, saute the daikon and olives in some olive oil in a separate pan until the daikon is tender and has absorbed the olive flavor, about 8 minutes. Add the daikon mixture and the edamame to the ragù, cover, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove the bay leaf.
When the polenta is ready, remove the sage and ladle it into warm bowls. Top with the ragù, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and serve piping hot.
Question: What is your go-to pantry staple item?
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