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Mamma mia! Italian polenta with tomato sauce is a versatile dinner option

By the editors of Relish Magazine | 8/22/2015, 6 a.m.
When tomatoes are at their peak, make a delicious garden tomato sauce to serve over pasta or polenta (stone-ground cornmeal). ...

When tomatoes are at their peak, make a delicious garden tomato sauce to serve over pasta or polenta (stone-ground cornmeal). Polenta is super-easy to prepare: just bring water and milk to a boil, stir in the cornmeal and whisk like mad, whirling the grains around in the hot liquid until the whole thing thickens and becomes creamy.

The sauce works best with peeled tomatoes. Here’s an easy method: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. With a sharp knife, slice off stem ends of tomatoes and carve an “X” in opposite ends. One at a time, gently place them into boiling water. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. After a minute or so, you will see the skin around the “X” begin to curl. With a ladle, transfer tomatoes to ice water to stop the cooking. When tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them while working over a bowl to catch any juices. Place peeled tomatoes in the bowl and chop coarsely.

Creamy polenta with garden tomato sauce

Garden tomato sauce ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced, about ½ cup

1 small celery stalk, trimmed and diced, about ½ cup

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

2 large garlic cloves, diced

18 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon salt

4 to 8 pre-cooked Italian-style chicken sausage, cut into chunks (optional)

¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Creamy polenta ingredients:

2 cups reduced-fat milk

2 cups water

¾ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups stoneground cornmeal

2 tablespoons butter

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add carrot, celery, onion and garlic; cook, stirring, 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes and any juice from the bowl. Mash lightly with a wooden spoon. Add oregano and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes, until tomatoes have cooked down and formed a chunky sauce. Add sausage and stir to combine. Cook 5 to 10 minutes, until sausage is heated through. Add cheese and stir well. Remove from heat and keep warm until ready to serve.

To make polenta, combine milk and water in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Gradually add cornmeal, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Add butter. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring almost constantly, 25 to 30 minutes, until polenta is thick. Serve topped with warm sauce and chunks of sausage. Serves 4.

Recipe by Karen Berman