However busy I am during the day, what I’ll cook in the evening – assuming I’m in, of course – is never far from my mind. Today I thought I should use up some of the sausages I made on New Year’s Eve (click here) that were in my freezer. I decided they’d go nicely with some polenta and a tomato sauce. But then I thought some more. The sausages I’d made were flavoured with orange and perhaps some flavoured with rosemary would go better with what I had in mind. So I made some more. But really, making sausages is so easy I can’t imagine I’ll ever bother to buy any again. I threw everything together in minutes during the afternoon, shaped them into sausages and put them in the fridge.
It’s taken me a while to come to terms with polenta. And it’s also taken me most of my life to connect ‘polenta’ with American ‘grits’. They’re really the same thing. Though I have to say polenta sounds a lot nicer to me (sorry American friends but the Italians will understand). When I’m in Venice many meals come with polenta and sometimes not the usual yellow colour (polenta is made from corn); sometimes white or even black. I had some mantecato (a gorgeous creamy salt cod dish) on nera polenta in one of my favourite bars in Venice, Osteria Bancogiro, when I was there last April (click here).
Polenta is the usual accompaniment to the famous Venetian dish, Fegato Veneziana – liver with onions – which I just love. It has to be said though that polenta can be an unappealing food. Too often a tasteless gluey lump that really isn’t that great. However, a soft polenta – a consistency more like creamed potatoes – flavoured with plenty of salt and pepper and a nice big grating of fresh Parmigiano and a big lump of butter is a wondrous thing. And that’s the route I took tonight.
I bought some quick cooking polenta from Sapori (click here) a little while ago. I wasn’t too sure of the measurements so I heated a cup of water with salt and when it was boiling added half a cup of polenta. You have to beat it quite well as it tends to go lumpy. If it’s not soft enough, add a little more hot water. Cook for about 3 minutes while you beat it (or according to the instructions on your packet) then remove from the heat and grate some Parmigiano into it – a really good helping – with a good lump (about 20g) butter and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. It’s best to do this near the time the sausages are ready as it takes only about 5 minutes and will start going very gooey if left too long.
The sausages I made in much the same way as the ones I made the other day but of course without the orange and instead some nice chopped fresh rosemary from my garden. I put 500g organic pork mince (8% fat) into a bowl with 50g fresh breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary, 1 garlic clove crushed, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and some black pepper.
I mixed it well with my hands, kneading it slightly so it came together well, but don’t be tempted to use a food processor – that will make it too paste like. Now with oiled hands shape into 6 sausages – about 95g each.
About half an hour before I wanted to eat I got the tomato sauce going. I chopped 4 medium tomatoes and put them in a small ovenproof bowl with 1 garlic clove sliced (you can take this out easily at the end if you want to avoid smelling garlicky), some salt and freshly ground black pepper. I poured over a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil and put it in a 220C/200 fan oven for 20 minutes.
When I took them out they were bubbling hot. I used a fork to mash them down into more of a sauce, but I wanted them to remain ‘rustic’ so didn’t blend the sauce.
While the sauce was in the oven I cooked the sausages on a griddle (or use a grill) till nicely browned. And this was when I got the polenta going too. The last bit requires some multi-tasking!
Once everything was ready, I placed the polenta on a warm plate (I thought it best to warm the plate so the polenta didn’t go cold quickly), then I sliced the sausages on a slant and laid them on top. Then I spooned the tomato sauce over the top.
It was SO good! The polenta with the Parmesan and butter tasted wonderful, the sausages had a great taste of the fresh rosemary, and the sauce was so gorgeously rich and garlicky. Roasting the tomatoes in the oven intensified their lovely flavour. It all came together so well and was a delight of a supper!