From Bergamo. Polenta e cüní. This is the most common Sunday lunch in Bergamo, and is one of the dishes I miss from my time living there. The are many variations on the recipe. This one comes from Slow Food Italy. Serves 4
Polenta cuni ingredients
1 rabbit, cut into portions
50g lardo, guanciale or fatty pancetta
2 glasses of dry white wine (Slow Food recommends Valcalepio)
4 sage leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
Put the rabbit in a pan large enough to contain it in a single layer. Place over a high heat for a few minutes to completely dry out the pieces.
Polenta cuni lardo
Reduce the heat a little and add the lardo, butter, clove and sage. Brown the meat.
Polenta cuni browning the rabbit
Add the wine and let it evaporate, stirring from time to time.
Polenta cuni with wine
Reduce the heat to low, cover and continue cooking until the rabbit is tender. There shouldn’t be a lot of liquid while it’s cooking, but if it looks like drying out, add a little stock. The cooking time will vary according to the rabbit, but it will be at least two hours, maybe longer.
About five minutes from the end of cooking, add the remaining butter and the chopped rosemary. The rabbit should be quite dry, almost crispy on the outside, and moist on the inside.
Serve it with polenta made according to the instructions on the packet. If I don’t have a polenta machine available to stir it, I usually use the quick cooking variety. A lot of Bergamasci regard this as a heinous crime though 🙂
Sgagliozze. From Bari. They don’t generally eat polenta in the south of Italy. In fact a nick name here for northerners is “polentone” which roughly translated means “polenta eaters”. One of the exceptions is this dish from Bari. It is often available as a street food, especially in the old town. Many thanks to Memma for the recipe. She says they are her husband Michele’s favourite.
250g polenta flour, the quick cooking kind is fine.
1 l water
oil for deep-frying
Boil the salted water, add the flour and mix it with a wooden spoon without making lumps.
Sgagliozze cooking polenta
When it is cooked (follow the instructions on the packet) pour it onto a board and form it into a thick rectangle. Let it cool down.
Sgagliozze cooked polenta
Cut the polenta into squares about 2cm thick. Allow them to dry out a little.
Coniglio alla Cacciatore or Huntsman’s Rabbit. When I lived in Bergamo the Sunday lunch was usually roast rabbit with polenta. I was regularly woken at seven in the morning by my neighbour grinding his polenta under my bedroom window. I’m sure he did it on purpose (we didn’t get on that well 😉 ) I see that rabbit is coming back into fashion in the UK, so I thought I’d share this recipe. It’s not roast rabbit, but another common Bergamasco dish. You can use any type of mushroom, even porcini if your bank balance will stand it. Serves 4
Rabbit with mushrooms ingredients
1 rabbit cut into portions
400 g mushrooms
100 g passata
1 stick celery
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp flour
100 ml chicken stock
1 glass dry white wine
5 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Chop the carrot and celery into small strips and thinly slice the onion.
Add to a pan with 3 tbsp of olive oil and cook over a medium heat until the onions start to go translucent.
Add the rabbit pieces and brown. Sprinkle them with the flour.
Thinly slice the mushrooms and sautè them in a separate pan with the rest of the olive oil and the whole, lightly crushed clove of garlic. Cook until they are well coloured and start to give off their juice.
Add to the pan with the rabbit and add the wine. Cook over a high heat until the wine has reduced by half.
Add the passata and stock, season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about and hour over a low to medium heat.
Brasato Al Barolo. From Piemonte. Barolo is the king of Italian wines. It’s also a bit pricey so I used a very nice Primitivo di Manduria instead. Don’t tell anyone 😉 This dish is often served with polenta.
Brasato al Barolo ingredients
1 kilogram piece breast of veal (or beef) — whole
30 grams butter
1 bottle Barolo (or other full bodied red wine)
1 medium onion — finely chopped
1 stick celery — finely chopped
1 medium carrot — finely chopped
1 stick cinnamon
3 bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary
2 cloves garlic
You will need a cooking pot that is suitable for slow cooking, Earthenware would be ideal.
Add the veal, onion, carrot, celery, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, rosemary and garlic to the cooking pot.
Pour on the wine, making sure that the meat is completely covered.
Brasato al Barolo marinating
Leave to marinate for at least 12 hours.
Remove the meat from the marinade (reserve) and dry thoroughly with kitchen paper.
Heat the butter and olive oil in the cooking pot and fry the veal on all sides until it is well coloured and has a ‘crust’.
Re add the marinade.
Season, cover and cook over a very low heat for around 3 hours. Turn the meat from time to time (or baste with the sauce)
At the end of cooking remove the rosemary, bay leaves, cinnamon and garlic.
Remove the meat and allow to rest before slicing. I prefer quite thick slices, but it’s more usual to make them quite thin.
If the sauce is still a bit thin, reduce over a high heat until it thickens. You can sieve or liquidize it to make a smoother sauce.
Polpettine al Sugo. A lot of people mistakenly think that this dish was invented in the USA, but although it’s not nearly as common here as it seems to be in the states, it is Italian through and through. It tastes even better heated up the next day. I served it with linguine(a bit of a crime: ragu should be served with a ribbon pasta such as tagliatelle) the first day and polenta the second, but it goes with pretty much every kind of pasta.
Mix together the beef, sausage, the breadcrumbs moistened in a little water, garlic and parsley in a bowl. I find it easiest to use my hands. When it is well mixed, season with salt and pepper and mix in the egg.
Form into small meatballs, about the size of a marble.
Fry the meatballs in plenty of olive oil until they are evenly browned. Drain on Kitchen towels.
Drain the excess oil from the pan, add the onions and fry for about 5 minutes over a medium heat.
Add the passata and basil, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the meatballs and cook for a further 15 minutes.
Serve with your favourite pasta or with polenta.
Now I’ve been here a while I realise that I’ve been very English and got things a bit wrong. :hangs his head in shame: The recipe above is still authentic, but the Italians don’t serve the meatballs with the pasta. They are eaten as the secondo.
Maryann puts it better than I can(see comments):
I think why most people say spaghetti and meatballs originated in American is that they eat it all on the same plate, in the same course. In my family, first the macaroni, then the meat from the sauce.