Polenta with Cranberry Beans and Tomato Sauce

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Main Dishes Vegetarian

In the Rancho Gordo library, we have a well-used copy of the book Fagioli: The Bean Cuisine of Italy (Rodale, 2014) by Judith Barrett, and this recipe is inspired by the book. When we tested it in the Rancho Gordo kitchen, it was a big hit. As we licked our bowls clean, we all agreed that it was a polenta dish with beans, not a bean dish with polenta, if that makes sense. Our favorite polenta comes from Anson Mills. 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cups canned chopped tomatoes, with their juices
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 4 to 5 cups cooked, drained Rancho Gordo Cranberry or borlotti beans
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups yellow polenta
  • 6 ounces pancetta, diced (optional)
  • Chopped fresh basil or parsley for garnish

Makes 6 servings

  1. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and vinegar. Dissolve the tomato paste in the broth and add to the onions and tomatoes. Add the basil and sage. Season with salt and pepper and simmer until the sauce has thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Add the beans to the tomato sauce. Cook, stirring, to combine and heat through, about 15 minutes.
  3. To prepare the polenta: In a heavy pot, combine the cornmeal with 1 tablespoon salt. Turn the heat to medium and gradually whisk in 9 cups cold water, stirring constantly, until the polenta begins to boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until thick, about 45 minutes.
  4. If using pancetta: Place the pancetta in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the pancetta is brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta to a paper towel to drain.
  5. To serve, spoon the polenta into serving dishes. Ladle the beans over the polenta and top with the pancetta, if using. Garnish with fresh herbs.


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