Make the Ragù a day or two in advance for maximum flavour. The combination of the tomato rich sauce and the cheese rich polenta makes for an incredibly satisfying dinner.
The last time I made polenta I was underwhelmed, to say the least. I used “instant” polenta from the supermarker and followed the recipe to the letter, only to be left with a bowl of what could only be described as flavourless wallpaper paste. You’d think that would be enough to put anyone off but I’m nothing if not determined and when I found a bag of cornmeal at the back of the pantry (originally used to make Cornbread, if you were wondering) I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if I made it from scratch.
As you can imagine when served on its own there’s not a huge amount of flavour and calling it bland would be an understatement. I needed to make the polenta itself taste good and pair it with something flavoursome, just to make sure there was no risk of disappointment. Fortunately I had a recipe idea tucked away that was the perfect pairing – a Sausage-based Ragù, slow-cooked until it thick and rich – and sitting it on top of some Parmesan-rich Polenta seemed perfect.
It was only when I was in the meat aisle at the supermarket that I decided to use Chicken Sausages instead of pork, as I was intrigued by Heck’s “Chicken Italia” variety that were guaranteed to be flavoursome and the ideal ingredient in my ragù. I’m glad I did, as the flavours were wonderful – a slightly spicy sauce, rich with tomato flavour, helped along by some vibrant herbs. You don’t need to buy a sauce in a jar to get flavour and this way you know a lot more about the ingredients. let’s face it if you’re sitting around the house you might as well have a saucepan bubbling away at the same time.
I also have to say that I really enjoyed the polenta and found it’s silky texture and rich cheese flavour to be the perfect partner for the ragù. Yes, it did need a lot of attention for 30 minutes or so – stirring it to save it from sticking to the bottom of the pan – but the outcome was worth the effort. It was much nicer than the “instant” version and I’d gladly have it again – though Michael remains unconvinced, so that might be an uphill battle.
Oh well – you win some, you lose some, I guess…
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 500 g Good Quality Chicken Sausages, skins removed and broken into chunks - I used Heck Chicken Italia sausages.
- 2 cloves Garlic, crushed
- 1 tbsp Tomato Puree
- 1½ tsp Smoked Paprika (Pimentón dulce)
- ½ tsp Dried Chilli Flakes
- 200 ml Dry White Wine or Vermouth
- 100 g Mushrooms, sliced
- 2 Sprigs Rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
- 2 Sprigs Thyme, leaves removed and chopped
- 400 g Tinned Chopped Tomatoes
- 1 l Good Quality Chicken Stock
- 200 g Ground Cornmeal (medium or coarse ground)
- 1 tsp Fine Sea Salt
- 1 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 100 g Parmesan, grated
- 30 g Butter
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add in the chopped onions and cook for 10-15 minutes until translucent and tender.
Add in the chicken sausagemeat and cook for a few minutes until browned, before adding in the paprika, chilli flakes, garlic and tomato puree. Stir well ensuring everything is well coated and cook for a further minute.
Turn up the heat then add in the wine or vermouth and allow to bubble for a few minutes and reduce slightly.
Add the mushrooms and herbs, then stir well, before adding in the chopped tomatoes. Reduce the heat and put on a loose-fitting lid. Allow to cook for 30-40 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened.
At this stage you can either make the polenta and serve immediately or allow the sauce to cool and store in the fridge or freezer until needed.
Put the chicken stock in a large pan and bring to the boil.
When boiling, slowly pour in the cornmeal whilst constantly whisking the mixture until it's well combined and starting to thicken.
Turn the heat down to low, cover the pan and continue to cook for a further 30-40 minutes until the mixture starts to come away from the edge of the pan. You will need to whisk (or stir with a wooden spoon as it thickens) at least every 5 minutes to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
When cooked, remove from the heat and stir in the seasoning, butter and parmesan cheese.
Serve topped with the ragu and enjoy.