Sausage Ragu w/ Soft Polenta

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by Dawn T in Rouxbe Recipes

Popular in Northern Italy, this polenta dish is pure comfort food. A rich, sun-dried tomato and sausage ragu is served over creamy polenta.

  • Serves: 4 to 6
  • Active Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 45 mins

  • Comments: 14
  • Views: 14133
  • Success 100%

Step 1: Preparing the Sausage

Preparing the Sausage

To prepare the sausage, remove it from its casing or skin and then break up the meat. Place into a bowl and set aside.

*Note: We used half fennel sausage (mild spice) and half Italian sausage (spicy); however, any combination or type of fresh, quality Italian sausage will do.

  • 1 lb Italian pork sausage*

Step 2: Starting the Ragu

Starting the Ragu

To start the ragu, finely dice the onion. Heat a pot over medium-high heat and then add the oil. Next, add the onions and let cook for about 5 minutes or until soft and golden.

Meanwhile, drain and julienne the sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside.

Once the onions are ready, add the sausage meat and stir to break up the meat. Let the meat cook and brown for a few minutes before deglazing with the white wine. If using red wine, it does change the color of the sauce a bit, but the flavor is still great. Add the passata and sun-dried tomatoes.

*Note: Italian sieved tomatoes are referred to as passata. Passata can be found in many grocery stores and Italian markets. For the best flavor, try to find a brand that is free of additives, salt and citric acid.

  • 1 onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, in oil
  • 2 cups passata* or tomato sauce
  • 2/3 cup white or red wine

Step 3: Cooking the Ragu

Cooking the Ragu

To cook the ragu, bring everything to a boil and then turn down the heat. Let the dish simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and has good flavor. Stir occasionally to ensure the sauce does not scorch.

Note: You can cook this ragu for several hours. The texture is wonderful and with the low and slow cooking, the meat really breaks down and the flavors totally come together. You can also add some cream to the ragu as it cooks, but this is also optional.

Meanwhile, you can go ahead and start the polenta.

  • kosher salt (to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • heavy cream (optional)

Step 4: Making the Polenta

Making the Polenta

*Note: For this dish, a medium cornmeal (preferably stone-ground) works really well as it has a nice, creamy texture once cooked; however, the grind and type of cornmeal you use is up to you.

To make the polenta, pour the cornmeal, salt and cold liquid (either water, stock or a mixture of both) into a medium pot. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking frequently.

*Note: The amount of liquid you use will depend on the consistency you are looking for. Refer to the lesson on How to Make Polenta.

Once the polenta comes to a gentle boil, turn the heat down to low and continue to simmer until the polenta is done to your liking. This may take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the grind of the cornmeal. Taste the polenta for doneness. The grains should be fully hydrated and not al dente.

Once the polenta has cooked to your liking, taste it for seasoning.

  • 1 cup polenta*
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 5 to 6 cups liquid (water and/or stock)

Step 5: Serving the Polenta and Ragu

Serving the Polenta and Ragu

To serve the polenta, portion it out between 4 to 6 bowls and then top with the ragu.

To finish, top with grated with Parmigiano-Reggiano, if desired. Serve and enjoy!

  • freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Robert S

Suggestions

I made this recipe (and polenta) for the first time yesterday. My version was okay, but not great. In all, the sausage ragu was too oily and the polenta was too salty. Here are some thoughts:

1) I'm wondering whether I should have drained the oil from the sausage after I browned it and/or drained the sun-dried tomatoes.

2) I'm wondering whether it makes a difference that I put tomato puree (good tomatoes I passed though the passattuto) and not an actual tomato sauce or passata, which I still don't quite understand.

3) After my ragu had simmered for a couple of hours, really it was just the sausage that was left. It definitely didn't have the texture of the picture in the recipe. Suggestions?

Dawn T
Rouxbe Staff

Re: Suggestion for Sausage Ragu

Robert it sounds like there may have been a few things that just needed a bit of tweaking. First off, I would say that if the polenta was too salty, then perhaps next time I would just use a bit less salt. Did you use kosher salt or table salt? I am just curious as the recipe calls for kosher which is less salty than table.

With regards to the ragu, I think that you may have just needed to trust your instincts with this one, as you questions are good ones. If the sausages seemed too oily then perhaps I would have drained them.

As for the sun-dried tomatoes, you ask if you should have drained them. The answer is yes. I think you may have just over looked that in the recipe, as it does say to drain them before adding them to the dish.

As for the tomato puree you used, I guess without trying it or seeing myself I am not %100 sure of what may have been the issue. It could have been that the tomatoes just didn’t have tons of flavor themselves or it could have been that you just reduced the sauce down too far.

By the way, the tomatoes passed through a passattuto are pretty much the same thing as passata. I often use passata over fresh tomatoes. This is for a few reasons, one I don’t always have the time to do it myself. Also, passata is generally very flavorful as it is made using only fresh ripe tomatoes. Of course some brands are better than others.

As for the consistency of your sauce…you say “after my ragu had simmered for a couple of hours”…I think that is likely the reason why you only had sausage left, you likely just let it reduce down too far. The original recipe says to cook it for about 30 to 45 minutes. When I say that I sometimes cook it for several hours, I am constantly monitoring it to make sure it is not drying out. I also keep it covered with a lid slightly ajar. But again you just want to keep an eye on it. If it looks like it is getting too dry, either stop or add a bit more liquid. I sometimes add milk or cream (as stated in the recipe). I can tell you this though, the photo of my ragu is not food styled in any way.

I would say to give this another try as this is where the real learning comes in. Hope this helps, keep up the good work!

Jennifer K

Substitution

Could you substitute sherry instead of wine in this recipe?

Dawn T
Rouxbe Staff

RE: Using Sherry

You could give it a try. Just make sure it's not a very sweet sherry. Here is a drill down on the different types of sherry. Cheers!

Bridgette G

Basic tomato sauce vs passata

Will this work well if I use my leftover basic tomato sauce in place of the passata?

Kimberley S
Rouxbe Staff

RE: Basic tomato sauce vs. passata

Sure thing. The text recipe indicates "2 cups passata or tomato sauce". If you made the Basic Tomato Sauce on Rouxbe, it'll be lovely. Cheers!

Alexandra  D

a vegetable dish to accompany?

I have made this before and absolutely loved it! So hearty and satisfying. I want to make it again tonight, and I am wondering what type of vegetable dish would go well with this. It is a pretty complete meal by itself, but it would be nice to have some veggies, too!

Dawn T
Rouxbe Staff

RE: Vegetable Sides

If you search "vegetables" on the site, you will find many great ideas. The first one that comes to mind is the lemon garlic rapini. It's Italian and it would go well. Cheers!

Lea

Wine?

Would vermouth be an acceptable substitute? It's all I've got in my fridge right now and I didn't want to have to go out and buy wine. I'll do it, though, if the vermouth won't work.

Dawn T
Rouxbe Staff

RE: Vermouth Instead of Wine?

We have not tested this recipe using vermouth instead of white wine, but I imagine that it would be fine. Of course, it won't be the same as if you were to use red wine but again, it should still be good. If you end up using vermouth, please let us know how it turns out. Cheers!

Lea

Vermouth....

So, I caved in and went to the grocery store. Ended up choosing a zinfandel and I think I made the right choice. Just started the ragu simmering and it smells divine!

Dawn T
Rouxbe Staff

RE: Vermouth in Sauce

You sound like me Lea—the first time I make a recipe, I like to stay pretty close to the ingredients/method. The second time however is a different story—that's when I am okay to experiment i.e., using vermouth instead of red wine.

With that said, I don't think that you will be disappointed in the red wine in this sauce. Besides, now you have something to drink while the sauce cooks :-)

Lea

Vermouth in Sauce

I am like that. Until I know what it's "supposed" to taste like, I want to stay close to the recipe. Once I'm comfortable with it, I relax and experiment (sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail miserably). That said, after eating it I definitely think the zin was the right choice here. It added a richness that I don't think the vermouth would have.

This was also my first time making polenta. I must admit that I made that just from the recipe and didn't go through the entire lesson for polenta. I made the polenta with just water and salt. I know you can add stock but I wanted to try it plain first as I've never had polenta before. I'm calling it a success. It's amazing to me how many flavorful dishes are "poor man's food" (I.e. simple, cheap ingredients that taste good that you can use to feed a large family without breaking the bank).

Overall, this was a great way to start 2013!

Dawn T
Rouxbe Staff

Re: First Time Making Polenta

Nice work Lea. Glad to hear that you had success with your first polenta making. You are certainly right that it is a cheap, yet delicious, way to feed a crowd.

Next time, try making it with stock and see if you notice any difference. Cheers!

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