Imagine sitting down to a dinner party with your loved ones. There are no plates or bowls on the table; you’ve each been given a fork and a glass for wine. Before your eyes the table transforms into one large serving platter. Creamy, golden polenta is spread into the center of the table to create one large, delicious canvas. Next, a rich, saucy ragu is carefully spooned on top, distributing luscious flavors and chunks of precious meat across the thickened maize. As the wine flows and each fork sweeps through the perfect mess of soul warming flavors, the air fills with chatter and laughter.
A traditional family-style meal in the mountains of Northern Italy since ancient Rome, polenta alla spianatora is a communal experience. First introduced from America in the 16th century, corn replaced farro or rye based versions of this dish served at the family table. Today, instead of dirtying their whole dinner table, many families will use a spianatora (a wooden platter) for their polenta party. How you top the polenta, is entirely up to you. You can spoon Chicken Cacciatore, a vegan marinara with chickpeas and herbs, Short Rib Ragu, or a Smoked Pork Shoulder Ragu.
If you don’t have time to make a labor-intensive ragu, this polenta alla spianatora recipe is made with sausage, olives, capers and our Original Passata sauce for a simple and quick ragu. Pair with a bottle of Barbera and your close friends and family for a polenta board worth sharing.
Polenta alla Spianatora
▢ 2 cups polenta
▢ 8-10 cups chicken stock
▢ 1 tsp freshly cut thyme
▢ 1 pack Porcini Mushrooms
▢ 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
▢ 2 lbs spicy Italian sausage
▢ 1 tbsp Wild Foraged Fennel Seed
▢ 1 onion, chopped
▢ 4 cloves garlic, chopped
▢ 1 jar Original Passsata
▢ 1/4 cup castelvetrano olives, chopped
▢ 2 tbsp Capers, chopped
▢ 1 cup dry white wine
▢ 1 tbsp Organic Oregano Flowers
▢ Freshly chopped parsley or basil to serve
▢ Parmigiano-Reggiano to serve
- Boil a pot of water. Empty the pack of dried porcinis into a large bowl and cover completely with boiling water. Set aside to rehydrate.
- Place a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat.
- Add olive oil and onions and sauté until translucent.
- Add the sausage, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until browned. Add the garlic, olives, capers, and fennel seed and stir until fragrant (roughly 1 minute).
- Deglaze the pan with white wine and reduce by a half.
- Stir in the marinara sauce and oregano flowers, and reduce the heat to a low simmer.
- While the sauce cooks, bring 3 cups of stock to a boil in a heavy bottomed pot. Add 2 cups of polenta and reduce the heat to medium. Whisk continuously until the polenta absorbs all of the liquid. Reduce the heat to low, and add another cup of stock.
- Stir continuously, adding another cup of stock when the polenta has absorbed the previous dose of liquid. Continue in this manner until the polenta has reached your desired creamy consistency, roughly 45 minutes. Season with thyme, salt and pepper to taste.
- Drain the porcini, roughly chop, and sauté in a large pan with olive oil, salt and pepper until browned.
- Spread the polenta onto a large wooden serving platter. Spoon the sauce over top, and scatter the sautéed mushrooms over top. Finish with freshly chopped parsley or basil and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.