Polenta and Meat Sauce paired with Ruffino Chianti Classico

ruffino_1I make no claims to the authenticity of this as a classic Italian dish, but I will state with conviction that is it is delicious and tastes pretty Italian to me. The meat melts in your mouth and the polenta is creamy and rich. This is the kind of meal that is tailor made to be enjoyed with a glass of wine or four.

Meat Sauce

3 lbs Beef back ribs
1 med onion (sliced)
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms (sliced)
1/2 cup dried mushrooms
1/2 cup beef stock
1/2 cup port wine
3 pieces garlic (minced)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 lg can of Italian whole plum tomatoes
dash of soy sauce
salt and pepper


1 1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup dried mushrooms
1/2 cup beef stock
1 med onion
3 pieces garlic (minced)
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup Parmesan cheese

ruffino_2Place a heavy, high-sided, oven-safe pan (that has a lid for later) over med-high heat. Season your ribs with salt and pepper. When you pan is good and hot add some olive oil and the ribs. Cook on all side until well browned. Remove and set aside. While the meat is cooking, mix the beef stock, port, soy sauce and dried mushrooms in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high until the liquid begins to boil.

After the meat has been browned and removed, add the mushrooms and give them a stir to distribute around the pan and add a pinch of salt. Do not stir again until they begin to brown nicely. You will be able to see the browning on the edges. Cook until the mushrooms have a good brown color. Remove and set aside. Add the onions and cook just until translucent and a little color starts to show on the edges. While the onions cook, squeeze any liquid from the dried mushrooms, chop and add to the pan. Strain the liquid to remove and gunk. Once the onions are cooked, stir in the garlic. As soon as the garlic begins to get fragrant (about 1 minute), stir in the tomatoes and dried herbs and scrape up all the goodies from the bottom the pan. Cook the tomatoes until almost all of the liquid is reduced. Towards the end stir continuously. The idea is to both concentrate the flavors and let the thickened sauce caramelize just enough to really intensify the natural sugars. However, these sugars can burn very easily if we don’t keep them moving.

Once the sauce is thickened and starts to take on a darker color, mix in the strained liquid that the mushrooms were soaked in and stir. Return all of the reserved ingredients, stir and cover. Place into a pre-heated 350 degree oven until the meat falls off of the bone. About 1 1/2 to 2 hours should be enough. If you have the time, reduce the heat to 250 and cook longer. If you have less time, cook on stove top, stirring often and adding liquid as needed. That should reduce the cooking time to a little over an hour. When it is cooked the meat should fall off the bone very easily. Encourage this and discard the bones.

About 60 minutes prior to serving you should start the polenta. The first step is to reconstitute the dried mushrooms in the beef stock. As before, microwave until the stock is boiling. Let the mushrooms sit in the liquid for 20 minutes, then remove and strain the liquid and reserve for later. Place a large heavy, high-sided pan or dutch oven over medium heat, chop and then sweat the onion until clear. Finely chop the mushrooms and add to pan. Stir often, and cook for about 3 minutes. When the mushrooms are finished add the garlic and stir for about 30 or 40 seconds until fragrant. Add in the reserved mushroon liquid, the chicken stock, and the heavy cream. Turn up the heat and stir. Once the liquid boils slowly start to whisk in the corn meal. The easiest way to control how much is added at one time is to grab the corn meal by the handfull and let is slide through your hand like children do with sand at the playground. Keep whisking until well incorporated. Reduce heat to medium. Keep stirring very often until the mixture becomes creamy and fairly thick. Taste the polenta, if it still seems too grainy add about a half cup of stock or water and keep cooking. Once you are satisfied with the texture, mix in the cheese and stir well.

To serve, place a mounded scoop of the polenta in a wide bowl or on a plate and then cover with a generous portion of the meat sauce. Sprinkle on a little grated parmesan cheese and step back to bask in the applause and adulation of your dinner companions. Pat yourself on the back and then join the adoring throng at the table as they make piggie noises while inhaling the meal.

ruffino_3We paired this dish with a Ruffino Aziano Chianti Classico DOCG 2007. They went together beautifully. The fine folks at Ruffino were good enough to send us a few bottles of their wine along with an excellent Italian cookbook.

This Chianti would be delicious paired with a lot of different dishes, and I plan to do just that in the future. It is a bright ruby color and smells of black cherry, juicy raspberries with a hint of rosemary and sage. This a medium bodied wine with a lot of big fruit. With all that fruit, smooth tannins, nice acidity, and moderate alcohol, this is an exceptionally food-friendly wine.

This is what the winemaker had to say about it:

Aziano is a Tuscan wine which perfectly merges the traditional values of the Chianti Classico territory with the advantages of modern winemaking technology.

The grapes used for the production of Aziano are cultivated in the heart of the Chianti Classico area. Its character and fragrant aromas are enhanced through a temperature-controlled fermentation process in stainless steel tanks.

The tower depicted on Aziano’s label was a typical sight in the middle Ages, when warring Florentine and Sienese noblemen fought to expand their fiefdoms. Many of these towers have toppled in the course of history, but many are still standing today and are a traditional trait of the Tuscan landscape – just as the Chianti Classico is a landmark in Tuscany’s enogastronomic culture.

“Enogastronomic” is an awesome word, and if they made it up they should be very proud of themselves. They should also be proud to produce a wine this good at such an affordable price. Ruffino Aziano Chianti Classico DOCG 2007 retails for about $15.00.

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