This recipe combines various ingredients and ideas typical of three regions, while still maintaining the essential Italian style. Polenta is from the north, the scottiglia is a stew of various meats typical of Tuscany, and the way of eating the dish comes from the Abruzzi. Alla spianatora refers to the special round table or board of the Abruzzi on which cooked wet polenta is spread, with a mound of stew in the middle. People sit around the table, armed with forks, and tuck in – it’s a really sociable meal.
For the stew
- 2.2 kg mixed meats like pork, lamb, rabbit or wild boar, if available
- 100 ml olive oil
- 4 celery stalks, very finely diced
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 large carrots, very finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 200 ml red wine
- 1 tbsp juniper berries
- 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 4 sage leaves
- 1 tbsp rosemary needles
- 2 bay leaves
- 1.5 kg polpa di pomodoro or chunky passata
- 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the polenta
- 3 litres water
- 20 g salt
- 600 g quick-cook polenta
- 250 g fontina cheese (or taleggio), freshly grated
- 100 g parmesan, freshly grated
- 100 g unsalted butter
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.
First, prepare the stew. Cut the meats into walnut-sized pieces.
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the vegetables and garlic. Sauté until soft, about 7 minutes, then add the meat.
Let it brown slightly on all sides, about 8-10 minutes, then add the wine and lower the heat to a simmer.
Add the juniper berries, peppercorns, sage, rosemary, bay and tomato pulp and cook for 5 minutes or so, then add the nutmeg and the tomato paste.
Cook, uncovered, for a further hour, until the meat is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
When the meat is nearly ready, start to prepare the polenta. Bring the water to the boil in a large pan, with the salt added.
Pour in the polenta and cook, stirring, for a few minutes, until thickened and smooth, about 5 minutes. (Be careful not to burn yourself when the mixture bubbles volcanically.)
Add the cheeses and the butter, and stir vigorously, off the heat.
Keep warm over a very low heat.
Get everyone to the table. Spread the polenta on to your chosen board or table, making a well in the middle. Taste the stew for seasoning again, then pour into the middle of the polenta. Buon appetito!