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Calzagatti: fried polenta with beans and chards

This dish with the strange name (calzagatti means cat’s socks) is a way Italians recycle” polenta

ingredients for 20 pieces – 4 servings (cost about 2,5 € pp)
  • Salt
  • 150 g polenta flour
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 40 g parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • 40 g butter
  • a bunch of swiss chards
  • 4 slices of prosciutto
  • 150 g dried beans, already boiled
  • EV sunflower oil for frying
  • 8 tbsp tomato sauce
  • Paprika

I adore polenta, “it is always on my mind”, as great Elvis would say. I will never forget some polentas with truffle or wild mushrooms I have eaten in Italy. A well made polenta is a great side dish. Do you really know how to prepare it?

Well, the first thing you have to do is NOT to read the directions written on the package. Actually, you always have to avoid this bad habit. Food factories in order to promote their products and to present them as easy and rapid to prepare, suggest to cook them less than the actually necessary time. Polenta has the bad fame of being a ¨tiring¨ preparation, so what easier for the companies to lower the necessary water amount and consequently the cooking time?

As a result polenta must be cooked with water equivalent at least 6 times the flour quantity. And even better if made with stock, instead of water.

Polenta must, also, be enhanced with aromatic ingredients, we should not forget that it is plain corn flour and nothing more. So, butter or oil, prosciutto or pancetta, parmigiano or grana cheese, herbs, spices, mushrooms and vegetables will make your polenta about 1.543 times better.

First of all we have to boil the water, mineral or filtered of course. Or, even better, the stock, as I did. We slightly salt it and we start adding polenta, while at the same time we stir with the whisk. We bring to a full boil and we immediately lower the heat. We continue cooking and stirring the polenta till the liquid is absorbed by the flour. Just before cooking is concluded, we add the enhancing ingredients: Cheese, butter, prosciutto, as we have done today, etc. We check the saltiness and we add, if we wish something spicy.

We then have at least 3 options:

a) To eat the polenta “wet and liquid” as a side dish. In this case, it is better not to have added prosciutto

b) To pour the polenta in a big pan and wait for it to cool completely. We then cut the polenta in triangles and we grill or broil it

c) To prepare polenta fried croquettes. We add some already boiled beans, we also boil the leafy vegetables, we strain them well and we cut them in small pieces.

When the polenta is ready and before it cools, we carefully mix the beans and the leafy vegetables and we spread the mixture in a pan to cool.

Once the polenta has cooled completely, we cut the resulting mixture into small pieces to about the size of a croquette and we fry them in hot sunflower oil at 190 Celsius degrees, until golden brown.

A small portion of tomato sauce (we mix tomato “polpa” with salt, paprika and oil) provides colour, acidity and freshness to our preparation. We serve immediately.


Published in PASTA