Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos host the web video series Under the Tuscan Gun. Debi is an American actress and her husband, Gabriele, is an Italian chef from Fiesole, Italy. Most recently, Debi has appeared on Entourage. The couple live in Los Angeles and in Tuscany.
Polenta Pasticciata (Polenta Cake "Parmesan")
Red Sauce (see below)
1 Box Instant Polenta
1 lb Mozzarela (not Bufala because it's too wet)
1/2 lb Freshly Grated Parmesan
1/2 Red Onion, chopped
3 Cloves of Garlic
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 Can whole tomatoes (16 ounces), processed in a blender
2 Handful of Fresh Basil
1 Sprinkle of Crushed Red Pepper
Salt & Pepper to taste
On a medium high flame brown the onion. When golden, pour the tomatoes, add salt, pepper and red pepper, and lower the flame to medium. The cooking time is about 15 minutes...this is what it takes to the sauce to get to a nice consistency.
A few minutes before taking your sauce of the fire, put the basil in the pan .
Polenta and Mozzarella:
We usually cook the instant Polenta. It takes between 3 to 8 minutes to be ready to serve, depending on the brand; the traditional polenta needs to cook for hours, and I honestly do not know anybody that can fit that in a family's schedule when grandma is not around.
Follow the instruction on the box, mold the polenta in two bread pans, and let it cool off as long as you can...about one hour would be ideal, but 15 minutes can work as well. Grate the mozzarella, or cut it in very small pieces and set aside in a bowl.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 7x11 Pirex Pan. Start cutting the polenta in thin slices and prepare a first layer. In the following order: one layer of polenta, one of red sauce, a generous sprinkle of grated mozzarella and one of parmesan cheese. Keep on going until there is no more polenta (usually two layers), then dress with the red sauce and the cheese.
Cook in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, then broil for a final 5 minutes to brown the cheese top and "make it beautiful". Serve dressed with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper to taste, and a final touch of grated Parmesan.
Polenta & Beef Stew
2 lbs Beef for stew, cut in 1 inch cubes
3 ripe tomatoes
3 celery stems
3/4 red onion
2 handfuls of Thyme
Salt and Pepper
2 glasses of wine
Peal and chop the onion medium fine. Rinse well the celery and chop it in 1/2
inch pieces. Peal the carrots, cut them length wise if they are big enough, and then chop in 1/2 inch pieces. Rinse the Thyme well.
In a cast iron casserole, sauté the onion, the carrot and the celery in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil on a medium – high flame, until the onion gets a nice golden color.
Add the meat, maintain the stove on a medium – high flame, and brown it well.
Before the meat starts pouring its juices in the pan, add the two glasses of wine, stir well, and let the alcohol evaporate...you can smell its pungent essence right away.
In a couple of minutes your stew is ready to start cooking and finally settle down into the casserole. Lower the stove to a medium flame, add salt, pepper, the thyme and the tomatoes cut in half. Stir well and cover with a lid.
From now on is just a waiting game. Stir constantly, every 10 minutes, make sure the flame is not too high or the stew will start sticking to the bottom of the casserole and then burn. The sauce the beef is cooking in will start doing its job, wrapping the meat with flavor.
In the beginning the sauce will look like a broth, that is because the meat is loosing all the water; it won’t look really pretty until about an hour and a half into the cooking. At that point, the sauce will start turning into a darker color, it will start getting dense, and it will push its oil on the surface.
Serve over your polenta.
Music Break: Defektor by Greg Camp