Like No Other Polenta


Last week Jeff and I were over in Oakland and had lunch at Oliveto, a northern Italian restaurant. They had polenta on the menu, with a few choices for topping, farm fresh egg, cheese and herbs or beef spezzatino.  We ordered the polenta with egg and polenta with beef. It was so amazing, like no other polenta. It's course-milled, grainy and tasty with a lot of flavor and texture. Served on traditional wood boards. It's called Red Flint Floriani Polenta, grown in Lodi, California. It has much more nutrition than yellow corn and is gluten-free.

I've never gone out of my way for polenta but this fell into the must-have-again category. They sell it at Market Hall Foods and it has somewhat of a limited production from what I can tell. 

And like no other polenta, it's a 3 hour cook time. The directions say 3 parts water for 1 part polenta, but it seemed to work out more like a 4-1 ratio. Even on a very low heat I needed to add more water over the 3 hours. I think this can be done in 2 hours (I was tasting over the 3 hours) but it is a bit softer and has less bite after 3. 

I really liked the stew with the polenta so I took a stab at this recipe for Beef Spezzatino. The stew came out really well, I added some fresh thyme and rosemary, and I cooked it longer than the directions (it helps soften the meat and I had to take out the potatoes to cook longer so it didn't become mush) but those were about the only changes. Also the stew takes 3 cups of wine which is almost an entire bottle, maybe there's a few sips left for the chef? :)

On with the recipes.


Red Flint Floriani Polenta
(adapted from Community Grains)

  • 3-4 cups Water
  • 1 cup Red Flint Floriani Polenta
  • Salt to taste

Boil 3 cups water in a heavy wide bottom pot, add 1 cup polenta and a bit of salt and whisk briskly until combined. Cook over a low heat, stirring every 20 minutes. Cook for 3 hours. Add water as needed.

Note: After the first 45 minutes the water was nearly gone, and I added more as it went along. It sticks a bit on the bottom so just be careful not to let it sit too long without a good stir and add water as needed.

polenta_stew (1).jpg

Beef Spezzatino
(adapted from David Rocco)

  • 2 carrots (1 cup), finely chopped 
  • 2 celery stalks (1 cup), finely chopped 
  • 1 onion (1 cup), finely chopped 
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1-2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes 
  • 2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 3 cups of red wine
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • salt and pepper

In a heavy wide bottom pot heat olive oil, season the beef with salt and pepper and sear on all sides (working in batches as needed), remove beef from pot and set aside. 

Add carrots, celery and onion to the same pot, cook for 2-3 minutes until tender.

Add 1 cup of red wine and let reduce, about 10 minutes or so.

Stir in the tomato puree, the remaining wine and the fresh herbs (bring to a simmer to cook off alcohol), then add the potatoes and beef to the pot. Add some salt and fresh ground pepper.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.

Cook for 1 1/2 hours*

Remove herbs before serving

*If you have "Beef for stewing" cubes of beef, these usually need a longer cook time to get soft and tender, so optionally you can add the potatoes later, about an hour into the cook time and cook everything for 2 hours.