Years ago, when I lived in Rome, I’d order polenta with spuntature at a restaurant in my neighborhood of Trastevere. But only in winter. It’s a rare restaurant that features it at other times of year, and if it does, it’s likely to be a place devoid of Romans.
I’ve made it a few times this season already, but not with spuntature.
Since I was going to be making a ragù, I thought I’d include some sausages too, and put together some meatballs to enrich the sauce even more.
As long as you’re going to the trouble of cooking something for several hours, you might as well make enough to put in the freezer for a few meals later on, right?
So I pulled out my biggest stainless steel pot to get it going.
I’ve made polenta with a slow cooker, (using Michelle Scicolone’s recipe below). I’ve made it in the oven in an “almost no-stir” method (America’s Test Kitchen recipe below). I’ve made it with my nifty automatic polenta stirrer (the paiolo).
And I’ve made the instant type polenta too. They’re all good, but to me the best tasting polenta is made the old fashioned way – with good coarse grain cornmeal and by constant stirring for 45 minutes while you stand over the pot.
The polenta transforms to a creaminess that’s just begging for a good sauce to slather on top.
That’s where the ribs and sausage come in.
And they could find no better place to rest – except in your stomach of course.
Ragù with spuntature e salsicce
(Tomato sauce with ribs and sausage)
printable recipe here
2 1/2 – 3 pounds Italian sausage (hot or sweet)
2-3 lbs. pork spare ribs2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, minced
8 – 10 cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, minced
2 stalks of celery, minced
6 – 23 oz. cans imported Italian tomatoes
1 cup dry red wine
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 T. dried basil, plus fresh basil, if available
1/4 tsp. dried red pepper
about 3 dozen meatballs (recipe below)
Place the sausage in a pot and cook over medium flame until browned, and some of the fat has been rendered. Remove the sausages from the pot and set aside.
Place the ribs in the pot and brown them all around. Remove and set aside.If there’s a lot of fat in the pot remaining from the sausages and ribs, drain most of it, but leave a little for flavor. Add the olive oil to the pot. Finely mince the onion and garlic in a food processor and saute in the olive oil. Do the same with the carrot and celery. Cook the vegetables in the olive oil until softened.
Add the remaining ingredients and put the sausage back into the pot with the sauce. Add the spare ribs.
Add the fried meatballs to the sauce, if desired.
Cook everything together for at least two to three hours on a low flame, stirring periodically.
My mom’s meatball recipe
I sometimes broil these, and they’re good that way, but oh-so-much better when deep-fried.
2 1-2 – 3 pounds of ground meat (I use a mixture of pork, veal and beef)
about 1/3 of a large loaf of sturdy white Italian bread, preferably a day old
about 1 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
oil for frying
Trim the crusts off the bread. Put the bread in a low temperature oven for a short while or leave it out for a few hours to dry out. Save the crusts to make bread crumbs for another recipe.
Tear the bread into chunks and place into a bowl with the milk. Let the bread soak for at least 15 minutes or until it has absorbed the milk and softened. Squeeze as much milk as possible from the bread and discard the milk (or give to the cat). Squish the bread pieces with your fingers into a bowl with the ground meats until there are no big lumps. Add the remaining ingredients and blend well with your hands. Shape into round balls. Fry in a heavy pan with ample oil, or if you want to be healthier, place on a baking sheet or broiling pan and broil or bake at high heat (450 – 500), watching carefully so they don’t burn. When they have a nice brown crust, turn them over and brown on the other side. Drain off the grease and add the meatballs to the sauce.
1 cup cornmeal
2 cups milk
2 cups water (or use all water and eliminate the milk)
salt, to taste
a couple of pats of butter
grated parmesan cheese, as desired
Pour the cornmeal and the milk and water into a heavy-bottomed pan. Stir over a low to medium high heat for about 30-45 minutes or until the mixture looks creamy. Add salt and taste the polenta. It will taste “raw” if it needs more cooking and may still have some grittiness. In that case, cook longer. If it becomes too thick, add more liquid. When it’s done to your liking, turn off the heat, add a couple of pats of butter and parmesan cheese, as desired.