Polenta Pasticciata con Ragu di Carne, a dish from the Campania region of southern Italy. This is a polenta casserole with a typical Italian ragu di carne. Polenta is made of coarse yellow cornmeal slowly cooked in water or stock until the desired consistency is met. While polenta is more often served soft and creamy, the polenta in this dish is cooked for 30-40 minutes and left to firm up until it is firm and can be sliced. .
Polenta isn’t very commonly known or eaten in the U.S.. It’s still mostly eaten in Italy. Polenta has been around since Roman times and was originally a peasant food. Before corn was introduced to Europe from the New World in the 16th century, polenta was made with other starchy ingredients such as millet, spelt, farro, chickpeas and chestnut flour. And though traditionally a poor man’s food, polenta is considered fine dining in the U.S. and is commonly served in more upscale restaurants.
This Polenta “Lasagna” is Italian comfort food at its finest. Beautiful in presentation and delicious to the taste.
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- For the Polenta:
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon salt
- For the Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ lb ground beef
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 2 cans (15 oz) petite diced tomatoes, with their juices
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ lb fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced, or 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
- To make the polenta: In a large saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Slowly add the cornmeal in a thin, steady stream while whisking constantly to prevent lumps, then add the salt. When the polenta begins to bubble, reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, whisking steadily, until the mixture is thick and pulls away from the pot, 15-20 minutes.
- Oil two 8-inch square baking pans and pour the polenta into them, dividing equally. Use a rubber spatula moistened with water to spread the mixture and flatten it evenly. Once it has cooled, place it in the refrigerator until firm, at least one hour. The polenta can be made a day in advance and kept in the fridge covered with plastic wrap.
- In the meantime, to make the sauce, melt the butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and saute until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the ground beef and stir to break up any lumps. Cook for 10 minutes until the beef is browned and no pink is remaining.
- Add the wine and bring to a rapid boil for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, herbs, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste. Return the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to low and let simmer, uncovered for 45 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. Grease a large rectangle baking dish.
- Cut the polenta into eight 4-inch squares and place half of the squares in the bottom of the rectangle baking dish. Spoon half of the sauce evenly over the polenta squares and top with half of the mozzarella and half of the Parmesan-Reggiano. Arrange the remaining 4 polenta squares on top and cover with the remaining sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan-Reggiano cheeses.
- Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cheese melts and the sauce is bubbling. Let the casserole stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Inspired by Michele Scicolone, Williams Sonoma
Judy Novitski Miron says
Many Italian families serve polenta on Christmas Eve. The cooked polenta is spread on a huge board and centred on the table covered with sugo (sauce) and Romano cheese. Everyone gets a fork and you all eat your way to the centre! No meat as it’s Christmas Eve. Many years ago I was invited to this meal and being Ukrainian was astounded that the 13 meatless dishes that I was used to were no where in sight. But it was delicious andI have made it often through the years. Ukrainians eat it with butter and brown sugar and it is called kulasha. Just a little trivia…
Kimberly Killebrew says
What wonderful traditions, Judy, thank you so much for sharing!
Sonya Wilson says
Hello, I should have commented on this dish years ago. I am from a small mining town where we are surrounded by Italians and believe me they can cook. I opened up a catering business and have used your recipe several times. Will be using it again on Tuesday. Thanks for sharing. Its a keeper.
Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet says
Hi Sonya, that’s a terrific compliment indeed! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave feedback; I’m happy that your and your clients have enjoyed this dish!