For the polenta cakes: In a saucepan
, combine the milk
, water, bay, and cayenne. Bring the mixture to a boil over low heat and season generously with salt. Take the seasoning to the edge of too salty. To do this you must taste as you go. Polenta acts as a salt eraser, if you don't season abundantly here you will never recover from it.
Once the liquid is at a boil and is seasoned appropriately, sprinkle in the polenta, whisking constantly. Once the polenta is combined, switch over to a wooden spoon and stir frequently until the polenta has become thick. Taste the polenta
to see if it has cooked through. If it still feels mealy
and grainy, add some more milk or water and cook it to a thick consistency. Repeat this process, as needed, until the polenta feels smooth on your tongue
, about 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf
and stir in the sage and mascarpone.
Line a 7 by 7-inch square pan with plastic wrap
. Pour the polenta into the prepared pan. Cover the top with more plastic wrap smoothed onto the surface of the polenta. Chill in the refrigerator until needed. (All of this can totally be done ahead of time, like yesterday! Cool!)
For the sauce: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Place the sausage in the oven and roast
for 15 minutes.
In a food processor
, puree the onions
, fennel, celery
, and garlic until it becomes a coarse paste. Season with salt and give a sprinkle of crushed red pepper.
When the sausage is roasted, remove it from the oven and coarsely chop
Coat a wide, deep pot with olive oil and add the pureed veggies. Cook the veggies until they start to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste
and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the white wine
and reduce by half. Toss in the chopped sausage and the tomato puree
. Taste and season with salt, if needed. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and simmer
for 20 minutes.
Remove the polenta from the pan and cut into desired shapes. Coat a nonstick saute pan with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot and starting to smoke just a little, add the polenta shapes. Cook the polenta on both sides and finish by sprinkling with the Parmigiano.
Transfer a few polenta cakes to a plate and top with the sausage sauce. Sprinkle with more grated Parmigiano.