Polenta alla Spinatoia – Polenta with sauce served on a board

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This is the traditional Abruzzese rustic polenta feast, typically shared on a cold winter day with family and friends. The polenta is poured onto a very large wooden or marble board on the dining table. The top is smoothed and indented a bit in the center. The host then pours the sauce over the polenta and arranges the whole sausage in the center. Everyone digs in with forks (or serving spoon), until they meet in the center to get to the sausage.

Such a substantial meal should not be preceded by an antipasto or a first course.

Polenta with sauce
Ingredients for sauce
  • 1/4 C. OO
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • optional: crushed, dried hot pepper
  • 1 lb. Italian pork sausages (sweet or spicy), casings removed and crumbled, plus 1 whole spicy sausage casing on and pierced
  • 6-8 pork ribs cut in half, giving 12-16 pieces
  • 3/4 C. dry red wine
  • 2 cans peeled tomatoes, coarsely chopped, reserving 1 C. juice (or 2 lb. peeled, coarsely chopped plum tomatoes)
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • S & P
  • 2 T. chopped parsley
  • Parmigiano Reggiano and or Pecorino Romano, grated


While the sauce is cooking prepare polenta as described in previous recipes.

Prepare the sauce:

Heat the OO in a large saucepan and sauté the onions, celery, carrot and garlic and optional hot pepper until lightly colored. Reduce the heat and add the crumbled sausage meat.

Separately in a large sauté pan (do not use a non-stick pan), cook the ribs and the single sausage until browned, season with S & P. Add the cooked ribs and sausage to the large saucepan with the cooked vegetables and sausage meat. Pour in the red wine and let it evaporate over high heat.

Add the tomatoes with the juice or 1 C. hot water and the tomato paste. Season with S & P. Reduce the heat to med-low, cover the pan and let the mixture cook for about 30 min. until the sauce has reduced. If the sauce has not thickened after 30 minutes, uncover the pan and simmer slowly until the sauce has reduced. Season the sauce with S & P, stir in the parsley and keep warm.

Pour the sauce over cooked polenta as described above. Dust with grated cheese.