First of all, please excuse my recent absence. It’s been quite a long time since my last post. What I’ve learned during this time of reflection, is just how important our memories truly are to us. Without memories, we are left with very little. I have been blessed with many memories of family and friends, and even people I hardly knew, who made me smile and brought some happiness into my life.
To that point, this blog has always been an homage to the people who have left me with beautiful memories of food, family, friendship and tradition. Nothing warms my heart more than remembering those special moments of cooking, laughter, and indulging in a world of taste, that has stayed indelible in my mind and on my tongue forever. I cherish each and every recipe, and every moment spent with that special person, who took the time to share themselves, as well as their recipes, with me.
One such recipe is Ida’s Polenta. I especially cherish this recipe as it is written in her handwriting, for my husband. Ida was a fabulous cook, and everything she made was a trip back in time to Italy, where she learned how to cook as a young girl. My favorite dish of her’s was polenta, with a tomato sauce made with pepperoni. This was an unusual dish for me because polenta wasn’t anything I was too familiar with at this time ( about 20 years ago, polenta wasn’t the rage as it is today). I also wasn’t fond of pepperoni, so it amazed me how outrageously delicious this sauce was. The best part was the way she formed the polenta into perfectly shaped large shells, placed in a Pyrex baking dish, topped with gravy and grated cheese, and then baked it in the oven. It was a thing of beauty!
Ida made this for me every time we went to her apartment, as she knew it was my favorite. The minute you walked into her apartment, you could smell this sweet and tangy sauce, and my mouth would start to water. When she knew her cooking days were coming to an end, she wrote the recipe down on paper and put it in an envelope for my husband. Each time I open this envelope and pull out the handwritten recipe, memories abound for me. When I’m shaping the polenta ( I cannot get mine into the form of a shell as she did) I can see her working intently, but always having time for a laugh. She could tell a joke…..even while cooking!! And when we sit down to this delicious meal, my husband and I look at each other, and say, “eat with the bread,” as she always did.
Recipe: serves 4 to 6
1 cup polenta
2 cups water
1/2 grated Italian Pecorino Romano cheese
1 28 ounce can of Italian San Marzano plum tomatoes, squished or pureed.
1/3 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 to 3 ounces of pepperoni, sliced in 2 inch by 1 inch pieces (no need to be accurate )
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste
- To make the sauce, simply heat the oil in a saucepan, add the garlic and onion until soft. Then add the pepperoni for about 5 to 10 minutes. The add the white wine. Cook down the wine for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 30 minutes on medium low heat.
- Make polenta as package directs, which is usually to bring the water and 1/2 tsp of salt to a boil, and then to slowly stream in the polenta, constantly stirring so as not to form lumps. Once the polenta is firm and not runny, add the grated cheese and stir until absorbed.
- Put a layer of sauce in a 9 x 13 Pyrex pan. Then layer the polenta on top. (As I mentioned earlier, I just cannot shape the polenta at this point as Ida did.)
- Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch.
- Once the polenta is firm and cooked, I am able to form it into ravioli, as I plate the polenta. It’s not necessary, but I think it looks nice in the dish, rather than like “mush.” I then top it with sauce and grated cheese.
- “Eat with the bread!”