This is a complete winter’s meal. It’s hearty and vegetarian, although if you want to include Italian sausage, cook it separately, slice it, and arrange it on top of the finished dish. For a streamlined process, make the tomato sauce and the beans ahead and heat them together while you cook the polenta. This dish is best made with a rich creamy bean such as borlotti. If borlotti are unavailable, try French horticulture or wren’s egg.–Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington
LC Winter's Meal Note
As the headnote says, this borlotti beans with creamy polenta is a complete winter’s meal. But don’t let that stop you from making it a complete autumn’s meal. Or early spring’s meal. Or any other time of year when it just happens to be a tad chilly come evening. Like tonight, perhaps?
Borlotti Beans with Creamy Polenta
- Quick Glance
- 30 M
- 2 H, 15 M
- Serves 4 to 6
- For the tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 teaspoons chopped oregano leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt, to taste
- 1 small carrot, peeled and shredded
- One 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes or plum tomatoes
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the polenta
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup polenta
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnishing
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups drained, cooked borlotti beans
- 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Make the sauce
- 1. In a small Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, the fennel, the garlic, 2 teaspoons oregano, the red pepper flakes, and a pinch salt. Saute until the vegetables are soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes.
- 2. Add the carrot and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, stirring to break them up with a wooden spoon. Add another pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, at the barest simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are reduced and beginning to separate from the oil, at least 2 hours or up to 3 hours.
- 3. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Let cool. (The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 days at this point.)
- Make the polenta
- 4. About 45 minutes before serving, bring the water to a boil in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the salt and, whisking continuously, slowly pour the polenta into the water in a thin stream. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring nearly constantly with a long-handled spoon, until the mixture thickens, the grains soften, and the polenta begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, 40 to 45 minutes. Stir in the butter and 1/2 cup Parmesan and season with pepper. Cover to keep warm.
- 5. Add the beans to the tomato sauce and warm them together over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in the parsley about 5 minutes before serving.
- 6. Spoon the polenta into warmed shallow bowls and make a well in the center of each serving. Spoon some of the beans and tomato sauce into each well. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.