A lot of Italian street food originated from the need to make food stretch as far as possible, combining what few ingredients were available with leftovers. This is one such dish. We now see scagliozzi in restaurants sold as ‘polenta chips’, and they may be made with stock, herbs or other flavours, but these are the simple version, the street food version of Naples, where they use lots of black pepper. You can bake them in the oven (which makes them healthier) and although not traditional, serve them with a garlic mayonnaise as a dipping sauce on the side.
Scagliozzi (pronounced skah-lee-oh-tsee) are fried shapes of leftover polenta, found predominantly in Bari and Naples in the south of Italy.
- 15 g(½ oz) unsalted butter
- 1 tspsalt
- lots of freshly ground black pepper
- 180 g(6½ oz) instant polenta (cornmeal)
- sea salt flakes
- garlic mayonnaise, to serve (optional)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Cooling time 12 hours
Bring 750 ml (25½ oz/3 cups) water to the boil in a medium-sized saucepan, then lower the heat to a steady simmer. Add the butter, salt and pepper and stir to dissolve. When the water returns to a simmer, pour in the polenta in a slow, steady stream stirring the whole time. Keep stirring for 3–4 minutes until the polenta is thick and difficult to stir.
Line a large baking tray with baking paper, then pour over the polenta and spread until it is about 1 cm (½ in) thick. (You can cover the surface with more baking paper and flatten further with a rolling pin, if needed). Set aside the polenta to harden for at least 12 hours (even a few days is fine). You can put the polenta slab in the fridge but this is only necessary if you live in a warm climate.
Preheat the oven to 210°C (410°F). Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Cut the cold polenta into 1 cm x 8 cm (½ in x 3¼ in) batons and transfer to the baking tray. Drizzle over a little olive oil and bake for about 30 minutes until golden. Start checking after 20 minutes to make sure they do not crisp up too much.
Eat warm, scattered with sea salt flakes and with garlic mayonnaise for dipping, if desired.
This recipe is from Italian Street Food (Smith Street Books). Photography by Paola Bacchia.