This recipe is from the Mountain Region of Garfagnana, near Lucca, in beautiful Tuscany. This recipe belonged to Emma’s grandmother.
5 ½ cups water
4 pork neck bones or pork hocks (optional, gives it flavour)
2 tsp. salt to taste
1 tsp. black pepper
2 ½ cups coarse grained yellow cornmeal
14 oz. can of Borlotti (or speckled) Romano Beans
1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely diced
1 stalk celery, coarsely diced
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 small savoy cabbage (coarsely chopped – the greener, the better)
3 large potatoes (peeled, coarsely chopped)
1 bunch fresh parsley (cut up)
¼ cup – 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic (finely minced)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (finely chopped)
Boil water, pork meat, salt and pepper for at least 1 ½ hour to make broth. Remove and add the fresh vegetable to the broth (or to the water if not using meat broth). Boil for 20 minutes and then add the can of beans. Boil for an additional 10 minutes.
While the above is boiling, place the oil in a small fry pan over medium heat and add the garlic and rosemary. Gently fry until the garlic is translucent. Set aside to cool.
Add the marinated oil to the vegetable pot and stir. Let the mixture cool slightly (should not be boiling when you add the cornmeal, but resume boiling once the cornmeal is setting). Keep at low/medium heat. Add the cornmeal by sprinkling in a thin, steady stream stirring constantly with a large whisk or wooden spoon. Cook for approximately 40 minutes, stirring frequently. Polenta is ready when it starts pulling away easily from the side of the pan.
Dampen the inside of a deep bowl (2 ½ to 3 inches deep or a pie plate) with water. Pour in the polenta and smooth the surface with a wet knife. Cover and let rest for approximately 10 minutes. Invert the bowl to unmold the Polenta onto a cutting surface. Cut the Polenta into slices approximately 3/8-inch-thick and arrange in a serving plate. You can also serve later by frying it in a fry pan with extra virgin olive oil or warming it up in the microwave or oven. The polenta can also be poured onto a cutting board and let sit for 5-10 minutes and cut as above. You can refrigerate sliced polenta for a few days in a plastic covered container and warm up as above.