It took a few visitors from the mountainous region of Trentino for me to discover that Italians also make polenta using spuds. This is perfect for us, as we don’t grow the kind of corn that’s good for polenta and there’s no Tasmanian version we’ve found. But this is just as delicious and tastes nothing like the mash it first resembles. Prepare your bowling arm, however, for the constant stirring required. This is good with a tomato sauce with meatballs or a ragù of some kind.
- 1 kg floury potatoes (such as coliban or King Edward), peeled, chopped if large
- 75 g (½ cup) plain flour
- 100 g unsalted butter
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 100 g shaved Pecorino or Gruyère, plus extra, to serve
- warmed passata and sausages or meatballs (optional), to serve
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.
Place the potatoes in a big saucepan with a generous amount of salt and cover with cold water. Place over high heat and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain and reserve the cooking water. You’ll need this water (and its inherent flavour) for the polenta. Mash the spuds well, ideally through a ricer, mouli or similar.
Place potatoes in a large, heavy-based pan over medium–high heat. Stir in flour and add enough of the reserved cooking water so it’s like a runny polenta. As it comes to the boil, it will thicken. It will also evaporate, so start just a tad runny and, if it gets too thick, add more cooking water (or plain water if you run out). Reduce heat to low and, once mixture comes to a simmer, keep stirring pretty much the whole time to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan. You want to cook the polenta for about 40 minutes, no less.
Melt butter in a frying pan over low heat. Add onions and stir for 15 minutes or until very soft. Stir onion mixture and cheese into polenta and season with salt. Top with passata and some sausages or meatballs, if desired, and serve scattered with extra cheese.
Photography Alan Benson