Polenta with beef ragù is a hearty meal that will satiate anyone’s appetite as well as offer a pleasant alternative to eating pasta. Polenta is as old as the Roman ruins; It actually originated in Ancient Rome and was cooked from farro (similar to barley). Today, polenta is commonly made from yellow or white ground cornmeal. As a result of its humble ingredients, polenta is still classified as a peasant dish in Italy. However, do not let this fool you — whether you add butter or Caciocavallo Podolico (one of the world’s most expensive cheeses), polenta can be as unassuming or as decadent as you want it to be. Polenta also has the stigma of being a food that requires your entire Saturday to cook. This is not necessarily true; this creamy concoction takes all of 15 minutes to whip up. Polenta can be eaten by itself as an appetizer or as a first course. However, I like to serve my polenta with a pile of heaping beef ragù on top.
Beef ragù is merely meat sauce. There are numerous variations on how to prepare ragù. One of my favorite ragu’s, a popular Tuscan variety, is made with wild boar. Wild boars are used primarily to dig up wild truffles in Northern Italy. However, boars are pigs and thus, many hunters have found that the boars are not only notorious for unearthing the truffles, but for eating them as well. As a result, many Italian truffle hunters have opted to training dogs to harvest the truffles instead. While wild boars are running rampant in the Tuscan hillside, they are not in the DC metro area. For this reason, I’ve always made my ragù with beef and probably will continue to do so until butchers around me start importing Italian boar.