I’m not really sure what’s happened since Februaryof 2010, but it seems that was the last time I made polenta. Very bothersome. I happen to really love polenta. A lot. I have no easy explanation for why or how it has been thusly neglected for almost 2 years, but that’s the thing about polenta. It’s just not a show-y extrovert kind of food. It doesn’t jump up and down and squeal “oh, make me! Make me!” Rather, polenta is a bit of an introvert in the food world. It’s a reserved, simmer slowly, take its time, quietly delicious sort of thing that is easy to miss when you’re busy making this and that. And now I feel really bad.
But to make amends, I decided to make this beautiful recipe I found in my Cucina Italiana magazine. I love Italians. They would never forget to make polenta. And not only would they remember to make it, this is what they would do to it… they would simmer and reduce a delicious tomato sauce to spread on top with chunks of Italian sausage, and then they would top that with fresh mozzarella, bake it until it gets all melty and luscious and then drizzle it with olive oil and cracked pepper. In my next life I will be Italian.
Oh, man is this good. Mostly in the past (when I’ve remembered), I’ve made the creamy, spoon-able kind of polenta, but this is the kind of polenta that you let set up and thicken and become a delectable vehicle for any number of sauces or toppings. I did have to alter the recipe a bit because that’s what I do, and I’ve noted those changes in the recipe below. I have also included a few ways to get this on the table a little quicker. But good polenta takes time. It’s not difficult or complicated, but like most introverts, it will require time, patience and a bit of your attention now and then. In the end, you will be magnificently rewarded. Lovely stuff.
Here’s the recipe…
Polenta with Italian Sausage and Fresh Mozzarella
Recipe adapted from La Cucina Italiana
4 cups of water
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups coarse polenta
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 (14-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice (preferably San Marzano)
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/2 pound Italian sausage (bulk or links)
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
freshly ground black pepper