Polenta e Spezzatino

Polenta with beef stew

The name of the dish is called Polenta e Spezzatino (pronounced spezz-ah-teen-oh).  Spezzatino is Italian for "stew" or a chunky meat ragú.  Polenta is a staple across the Alps and it originated in northern Italy where it was essential to many peasant and working class families since it's inexpensive, yet incredibly filling.  Polenta is made with coarse, stone-ground cornmeal and it's often referred to as "Italian grits".  Like grits, polenta is a hearty porridge with a grainy texture.  The polenta topped with this rich beef stew is the perfect warm, comforting meal on a cold winter day or night and it's perfect to pair with our Lagrein Riserva.  The wine is full-bodied and robust and it requires a heavier dish that can hold up to it.  The richness of the meat stew is perfect to balance the structure of the wine.

Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Prep time:  10 minutes
Cooking time:  1 hour 35 minutes

Serves 2

 

What you'll need:

  • Polenta

  • Olive Oil

  • Butter

  • 1/4-1/2 onion

  • 1 carrot

  • 2 celery stalks

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • 1 Cup red wine

  • 1 Pack of cubed beef meat for stew

  • 1 15 oz. can plain tomato sauce

  • 2 Tbsps of tomato paste

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Directions:

 

Cook the meat stew:

Note: The meat tastes richer if it cooks for even longer so don’t be afraid to cook it well in advance!

1.  Start by making the soffritto.  Dice the onion, carrot and celery.


2.  Put a generous amount of olive oil in a wide non-stick pan.


3.  Add the diced vegetables to the pan and sauté at medium heat until golden.

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4.  Once golden, add the meat cubes to the pan. (fair amount of olive oil, so if at this point you feel like the meat needs more you can add more)


5.  Add a little salt and back pepper to taste.


6.  Stir the beef frequently to cook evenly.

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7.  Once the meat looks well cooked, add a generous amount of red cooking wine.


8.  Raise the stove temperature to high and let it evaporate until you no longer smell alcohol.

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9.  Once the wine has evaporated, add a couple tablespoons of tomato paste.  Stir until well incorporated.

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10.  Add the plain tomato sauce and stir again.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce heat to low temperature and cover the pan.   Slowly cook for at least 35 minutes.

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12.  While your meat ragu cooks you can start to prepare the polenta.

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Cook the polenta:

Pick your favorite polenta brand and you can follow the cooking instructions on the package.  This is important! There are different kinds & cooking instructions can vary.

 

Generally speaking to prepare polenta:

1.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.

2.  Once boiling, add salt to the water.

3.  While stirring gently, pour the polenta into the boiling water in a steady stream.

4.  Turn down the heat to medium and continue stirring until the polenta is thickened enough that it doesn't settle back on the bottom of the pan when you stop stirring.

 

Many polenta brands are "instant ready" in 10-15 minutes. The traditional kind takes longer, 30-45 min.  If you're preparing the traditional kind: Some people don't like to stir the polenta the entire time because it can be quite the arm workout.  So if you like you can cover the polenta and cook on low and make sure to stir every 5-10 minutes and scrape the sides, bottom and corner of the pans so it doesn't stick or burn.  However, we prefer to stir the entire time it cooks.  It helps if you have a cooking buddy so you can take turns stirring.

 

5.  As its cooking and you're stirring, you can add in chunks of butter to make it creamier.

8.  Following the cooking instructions on packaging, make sure to taste to make sure it's smooth enough and there isn't any grittiness from the ground corn (but if you like it gritty, by all means serve it).

9.  Serve the spezzatino over the polenta as in the picture and enjoy with a bottle of our Lagrein Riserva!

Buon appetito!

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