Nonna Irene’s sausage stew with soft polenta

If it’s an Italian nona’s recipe, you know that it shall be three things: delicious; comforting and served in a quantity that far exceeds the capacity of ones stomach. This stew served atop a bed of creamy polenta very much hits that mark!


Serves 6

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 4 garlic cloves, skin on, bashed with the back of a knife

  • 10-12 pork and fennel sausages, cut into 3 cm pieces

  • 10-12 pork spareribs

  • 5 oz red wine

  • 2 14 oz canned tomatoes

  • 2–3 tsp salt flakes

  • 1–2 bay leaves

  • freshly grated parmesan, freshly ground black pepper and chilli oil, to serve


  • 17.5 oz coarse polenta

  • salt flakes, to taste


1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add the garlic and cook over high heat for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the sausages and ribs and cook until well browned on both sides. Deglaze the pan with the wine and allow it to bubble away for 1–2 minutes or until the alcohol has evaporated.

2. Add the tomatoes, salt, bay leaves and 400 ml water and bring to a simmer. When it starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid slightly ajar and cook slowly for 3 hours or until the sausages and rashers are melt-in the-mouth tender. Take the lid off, increase the heat to medium and cook for 10–15 minutes to reduce the liquid slightly. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

3. Meanwhile, for the polenta, place 3 litres of water in a large saucepan with a good pinch of salt and bring to a simmer. Whisking continuously, slowly rain in the polenta until well combined. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 35–40 minutes, stirring frequently and always in the same direction (bizarre as it may sound). You know it’s cooked when it feels luscious and silky and not grainy. Season to taste with salt, keeping in mind that the polenta will soon be coated with the sausage stew, so take care not to overdo it.

4. To serve, spread the polenta onto a large wooden board or large platter (or individual plates, if you prefer), trying to create a thicker outer rim to safely enclose the sauce. Pour the stew on top, spreading it evenly over the polenta base. Dust with parmesan and pepper, then arm your guests with forks and eat hot from the board. No table manners required. Serve the chilli oil on the side.

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