Polenta, rice and potato-based gnocchi play important roles in the cuisine of north-eastern Italy and are often paired with sauces or foods that are particular to individual villages, depending on where they are located. This recipe, from La Cucina Italiana, uses simple ingredients to make a hearty dish that would be the perfect accompaniment to the Villa Novare Valpolicella.   


Polenta Bianca con Salamelle e Mozzarella
(White polenta with sausage and fresh mozzarella)

4 servings

Made similar to pizza (a round of creamy polenta is topped with sausage, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese then baked until the cheese has melted), this is a hearty dish that adults and kids alike will love. White polenta, popular in Veneto, is made from white corn and has a fine grind, which makes it incredibly smooth and luscious.


• Unsalted butter for greasing pansPolenta_Bianca• 4 cups water
• 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
• 2 bay leaves
• Fine sea salt
• 1 1/2 cups coarse white polenta
• 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
• 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
• 1 (14-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice (preferably San Marzano)
• 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
• 1/2 pound fresh pork sausages (Sweet Italian)
• 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
• 4  ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
• Freshly ground black pepper

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: 2 (8-inch) round cake pans


Grease cake pans with butter.

In a large saucepan, combine water, 2 tablespoons oil, bay leaves and 3/4 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Slowly add polenta in a thin stream, whisking; reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until polenta is thickened and tender, about 40 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves.

Transfer polenta to prepared pans, spreading evenly with a rubber spatula. Let polenta cool completely in pans on a wire rack.

In a large saucepan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and their juices; stir and break up tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add wine, whole sausages, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring sauce to gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat.

Heat oven to 400° with rack in middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove sausage from sauce and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds.

Turn out polenta rounds onto prepared baking sheet. Top with sauce, spreading sauce to 1/2 inch from edges of polenta. Arrange sausage and cheese on top. Bake until cheese is melted and just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Serve warm, with a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of pepper.