Where I live in Valle d’Aosta, Italy, polenta con salsiccia is the ‘go-to’ way of preparing polenta. It is basically Italian sausage cooked in a tomato sauce and eaten with polenta. This dish is good, I mean really good. Good enough that I’ve been sneaking occasional bites of it, and I’ve been a strict vegetarian for 22 or so years. After years of living here and inhaling the rich scent of polenta con salsiccia wafting through the air, I finally gave in. And you know what? It was worth it.
This is what my husband, born and raised in these Alpine mountains, makes whenever we have a polenta party. He is the polenta con salsiccia master among our group of friends, and today I am going to share his recipe with you! I’m also trying my best to be well behaved while writing this post; I’m keeping all of my Italian-men-and-sausage jokes to myself. It isn’t easy, and I keep snickering like a fourth grader. I’m sure you can think of your own sausage jokes and I can keep up my pretense of being somewhat mature and respectable. Ha!
This is a ‘non-recipe’ recipe; I’ve tried to give measurements, but you don’t need them because the proportions of the ingredients aren’t very important. As long as you have good quality ingredients, this is hard to screw up! You’ll want to get the sausage topping going an hour or so before you start cooking your polenta, because this is best after it’s been simmering for at least two hours. You can use any kind of polenta meal you want, but if you are in the US I highly recommend the polenta integrale from Anson Mills. They seem to be on the forefront of heirloom polenta varieties in the US, and really know their corn and milling techniques. In the unlikely event that you have access to morado viola (purple) polenta, I highly recommend it with this recipe. It’s my favorite!
Ingredients for 6-8 servings:
for the polenta:
- 800 g (5 cups) polenta meal
- 3 liters (12 c) of water (more or less, depending on how thick you want your polenta)
- 1 T coarse salt
for the topping:
- 1 kg(~2 pounds) Italian sausage*
- 1 large onion
- 1.5 liters (6 cups/enough to cover sausage) unseasoned tomato sauce or puree, preferably homemade
- 2 T of olive oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp dried basil (or some other tasty green herb)
- a few glugs of red wine
- salt and pepper to taste
*In my mountainous region of Italy, sausage comes in somewhat skinny (maybe 3/4″) connected links. You can use whatever tasty sausage you have access to.
We want this dish to be quite lean. To get the fat out of the sausage, poke it with a fork, and then cut into finger-length pieces. Boil a pot of water, and dump your poked and cut sausage in the boiling water. After 3 minutes, drain and set aside.
With your lid on, let this simmer on low for about two hours, while you prepare the rest of your meal, stirring occasionally. An hour before you want to eat, start your polenta. See THIS post for detailed polenta making instructions. You’ll want to boil your water and salt in a heavy bottomed pot, and slowly whisk in the polenta. Stir for an hour on low, until the polenta starts getting crusty around the edges.