We just love polenta over here.
Whenever I make polenta, I use regular cornmeal, never the instant one. The texture and taste of regular cornmeal is unbeatable. I certainly think it is worth the effort. Layering polenta like I did in this recipe is not much more work than just spooning it on your plate and your guests will be impressed, I guarantee it!
For this dish, I suggest you use my beautiful Roman-style meat sauce, Ragù alla romana and if you do, use Pecorino Romano cheese with it. You can also use my recipe for ragù alla Bolognese along with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. If you feel like trying a new type of meat sauce, then go ahead and make this pork ragù scented with fennel seeds and fresh basil. It is quite something, too.
For the polenta:
7 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 1/2 cup polenta
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup Pecorino Romano
salt and pepper
1. Bring the broth to a boil in a saucepan and season generously with salt.
2. Add the polenta slowly in a gentle stream, whisking constantly to avoid clump formation. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting possible.
3. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally until the polenta is cooked, about 40 minutes.
4. Add the butter, the cheese and the pepper and adjust for salt.
5. Spread the polenta on a cookie sheet to an even thickness. Use a spatula dipped in cold water if the polenta is sticky. Let it rest at room temperature or in the fridge until it is set.
6. Cut the polenta in squares.
For the meat sauce (if you decide to make this one):
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
450 g/1 pound lean ground pork
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a heavy bottom pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion, celery and carrot until soft but not coloured, about 7 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.
3. Add the meat and cook, stirring constantly, until it is no longer pink, about five minutes.
4. Dilute the tomato paste in the wine and add it to the meat mixture. Let it reduce by half.
5. Add the fennel seeds, chopped tomatoes and chicken broth and stir well. Cook, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened, about one hour.
6. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Add the fresh basil, stir and set aside. You are now ready to assemble the cake.
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
1. Butter a baking dish and put the polenta squares side by side to cover the bottom of the dish and make one layer.
2. Spoon a good quantity of meat ragù over the polenta. Sprinkle parmesan or pecorino on top.
3. Add another layer of polenta, then sauce, then cheese. Add another layer if you want.
4. Top with good melting cheese like provolone, mozzarella or Gruyère or a combination and bake in a hot oven until bubbly and golden on top, maybe 40 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving and garnish with freshly torn basil leaves.