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Family-Style Polenta with Bolognese
Mike Smith / TODAY
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(7 rated)
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I find I gravitate towards this dish when I want to gather close friends. Serve it with a pitcher of sangria or fruity Italian red wine and a simple green salad.

Technique tip: To make reduced chicken broth, simmer 4 cups of boxed broth for about 45 minutes until it reduces and the flavor intensifies.

Swap option: Get creative with the toppings. Set out a variety of sauces so people can customize their dish to suit their taste. A creamy pesto would be a great addition and even a chunky marinara.


  • Mushroom fricasse

    • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 2 small onions, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
    • Kosher salt
    • 3½ cups gourmet mushroom medley, roughly chopped
    • 1½ cups reduced chicken broth (chicken reduction)
    • 1 tablespoon white truffle oil
    • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • Bolognese sauce

    • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
    • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
    • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 6 ounces ground veal
    • 6 ounces lean ground pork
    • 1/2 cup full-bodied red wine
    • One 28-ounce can diced plum tomatoes, preferably Italian, with their juice
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
    • 4 large basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
  • Polenta

    • 4½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
    • 1½ cups milk
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • One 13-ounce package instant polenta
    • 6 ounces kasseri or soft pecorino cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler


For the mushroom fricasse:

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, season lightly with salt, and cook, stirring, until the onions begin to color, about 4 minutes.

2. Add the mushrooms and butter, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 2 minutes. Add the reduced chicken broth, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.

3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by half and has a saucy consistency, 2-3 minutes. 4. Stir in chili flakes, garnish with truffle oil and parsley.

For the bolognese:

1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat.

2. Add the onion, carrot and celery, and cook about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

3. Add the garlic and bay leaves, and cook for 1 minute more.

4. Add the veal and pork and cook, stirring to break up any chunks, until the meat is no longer pink, about 7 minutes.

5. Add the wine, raise the heat to high, and cook until the liquid is reduced slightly, about 5 minutes.

6. Add the tomatoes and their juice and the cream and reduce the heat to low.

7. Cook, uncovered, for about 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

8. Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt, plenty of pepper and the nutmeg. The sauce should be very thick and chunky. If it isn't, increase the heat and cook for 10 minutes more.

9. Stir in the Parmigiano and the basil and remove the bay leaves.

For the polenta:

1. Combine the chicken broth, milk, and salt in a large, heavy saucepan and place over medium-high heat.

2. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then gradually sprinkle the polenta over it in a very slow, thin stream, whisking constantly in the same direction until all the grains are incorporated and no lumps remain.

3. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the polenta is so thick that it stands on its own, 5-6 minutes.

To serve:

1. Scoop the warm polenta onto a large wooden parchment paper-lined serving tray or cutting board and smooth into a thick oval.

2. Grind pepper over all, garnish with oregano or basil, and serve immediately, with a large serving spoon.

3. Serve with the kasseri cheese, warm Bolognese sauce and mushroom fricassee on the side.

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