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Polenta with Sausages and Tomato-Olive Ragout

Polenta with Sausages and Tomato-Olive Ragout
A staple of northern Italy, polenta has a hearty character best accented by robust flavors such as the savory ragout paired with it here.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
     (fresh or canned)
  • 1 small red onion, peeled
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 lb. Italian pork sausages, preferably flavored
     with fennel seeds
  • 8 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups polenta
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup pitted brine-cured black olives such as
     Kalamata or niçoise
  • Wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for shaving
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

In a heavy soup pot over high heat, combine the tomatoes, onion and garlic cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the onion. Pass the mixture through the fine disk of a food mill placed over a clean saucepan. Alternatively, puree in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, then pass through a fine-mesh sieve. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, prick the sausages in several places with a fork. In a large saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of the water to a boil. Add the sausages and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until golden on all sides and half-cooked, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, cut each sausage on the diagonal into 2-inch pieces.

In a large, heavy saucepan, bring the remaining 8 cups water to a boil over high heat. Slowly add the polenta in a steady stream while whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Switch to a wooden spoon, reduce the heat to medium and continue to simmer, stirring, until the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pan, 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the rosemary and butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, place the pureed sauce over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add the sausage pieces and the olives and simmer, uncovered, until the sausages are cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Divide the polenta equally among warmed individual plates. Spoon the sauce and sausages around the edges. Using a cheese shaver or a vegetable peeler, shave a few pieces of the cheese over each serving. Garnish with the parsley and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Autumn, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).