Polenta is a northern Italian staple and can used in a similar way to mashed potatoes, or if allowed to set, cut into shapes and fried until golden brown. In this recipe a creamy herbed polenta takes the place of pasta as the base for a rich Bolognese sauce.
250g mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, peeled, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
500g beef mince
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tin diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons dried Italian herb mix
1 cup instant polenta
¼ cup parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
- Heat a large pan with a drizzle of oil over high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
- Return pan to heat with more oil if needed, add onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes or until soft. Add mince and cook over high heat, breaking it up with the back of a spoon, cook until lightly browned.
- Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute before adding 1 tablespoon of herbs and tinned tomatoes along with 1 tin of water. Season well with salt and pepper, return mushrooms to the pan and cook for 10 minutes or until thickened. Check seasoning. Set aside and keep warm.
- In a pan, combine 4 cups of water with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, remaining herbs and a large pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and slowly add polenta in a steady steam, stirring constantly with a whisk or a fork until the mix thickens. Turn heat down to lowest setting and cook for 5 minutes or until thick, stirring to ensure it doesn’t catch and burn on the bottom of the pan.
- Stir parmesan through polenta and divide between plates. Top with ragu and extra parmesan.
- Instant polenta has already been cooked therefore it only takes a fraction of the time to cook compared to traditional polenta which needs to be cooked for 30 minutes or longer
- Slowly adding the polenta to the water will help to prevent lumps from forming
- Polenta is traditionally made with butter which is not practical for on the road, however if making it at home swap the oil for butter for a more traditional flavour
- Pasta or mashed potato can be used in place of polenta
- A pinch of chilli can be added to the ragu
- Turkey, pork or veal mince can be used in place of beef