Traditionally, Northern Italian peasants ate their polenta sulla tavola (“on the table”) or alla spianatora (“on the baking board”), which is exactly what it sounds like. Polenta was served directly from the pot onto a table or, more commonly, a long wooden board pre-soaked to prevent swelling. Everyone grabbed a fork and dug in.
The tradition is alive at Adelaide's Osteria Oggi. The kitchen staff brings steaming pots of polenta and ragu right to the table, spreads them across a board and finishes with parsley, chilli and parmesan. “We wanted to bring a bit of theatre to it,” says co-owner Chris Woodcock.
Osteria Oggi’s Polenta with Sausage Ragu
80ml olive oil
1 large brown onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
1kg Italian sausages, meat squeezed from skins
1 pinch saffron
800g tinned tomatoes
3 bird’s eye chillies, finely diced
200g instant polenta
100g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley to garnish
Place a large pan over medium heat. Add 50ml of olive oil, the onion, carrot and celery. Cook for 3–5 minutes, until translucent.
In a separate pan, add 30ml olive oil and cook the sausage meat in small batches until golden brown.
Add the sausage meat, tinned tomatoes and saffron to the vegetables and bring to a simmer. Cook for 2 hours over a low heat. Add water or vegetable stock as necessary if the mixture begins to dry out too much.
Heat the milk and water in a separate pot. Just before the milk and water boil, slowly whisk in the polenta. The polenta will thicken when it is finished. Add 50g of parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the polenta over a large serving plate, making a well in the middle. Pour the sausage ragu into the well. Garnish with parsley, chilli and parmesan.
This is an extract from The Broadsheet Italian Cookbook, which features 80 recipes from Australia's best restaurants, cafes and bars. Buy now at shop.broadsheet.com.au.