When you're looking for a menu that can be made entirely in advance and reheated in a flash, this would be it.
Creamy polenta cooked until perfectly smooth and luscious, flavored with sage and bay, ramped up with mascarpone cheese - have I got your attention now?
Thanks to Anne Burrell, this polenta is darn near perfect as it is, but it gets better. Moved to a square pan then refrigerated and when cold, cut into rounds and fried until crisp just before serving ...well you can't get much better than that! Oh but it does - get better that is.
Imagine those perfectly creamy inside and crispy outside parmesan topped cakes perched on a version of Nick Stellino's Bolognese Meat Sauce, loaded with chopped veggies, fortified with marsala and flavored with sage and pancetta. Now, that my friends is perfection. It just doesn't get any better.
Hard Polenta Cakes(from JBug’s Kitchen Antics adapted from Anne Burrell, Foodnetwork.com)
1 cup whole milk plus additional 2/3 cup
2 cups water
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt (more or less depending on taste)
1 cup polenta
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
4 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese plus additional for garnish
Olive oil for frying
In a medium saucepan heat 1 cup milk, water, cayenne, bay leaf and salt over medium heat until boiling. Whisk in polenta and lower heat to medium low then using a wooden spoon, stir polenta until thickened. Slowly incorporate additional 2/3 cup milk, stirring constantly and continue to cook until polenta thickens again and is very smooth. If the texture is grainy, add more liquid and continue to cook until smooth and thick. (Takes about 15 to 20 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in sage, mascarpone cheese and parmesan. Move to an 8 inch square pan lined with plastic wrap and spread evenly in pan. Cover well and refrigerate until firm.
To serve, remove from plastic and cut into rounds (I used a glass). Heat approximately a quarter inch of oil in a heavy skillet until very hot. Carefully add cut polenta and cook without moving for 3-4 minutes or until browned and crisp on one side. Flip over and continue to cook until browned on other side and hot in the center. Garnish with more parmesan cheese and serve over Bolognese sauce. Serves 4 to 6.
Bolognese Meat Sauce Adapted from Nick Stellino’s Mediterranean Flavors
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
½ cup finely chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 large bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
2 teaspoons dried basil
3 slices bacon, diced or 1 oz. diced pancetta
3/4 pound ground beef or pork (I used pork)
1/3 cup dry marsala wine
8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups beef stock
1/4 cup whipping cream (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
Heat olive oil until sizzling – add red pepper flakes, celery, carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaf, sage and basil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium low and cook additional 10 minutes. Increase heat to high, add bacon (pancetta) and ground meat and cook stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Add wine and cook until almost evaporated – about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, paste & stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Remove cover and simmer until sauce is thick – additional 15 minutes. Add cream and taste for seasoning.
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