For the vegetarian/meat-eating combo in your house. This is a totally vegetarian dish that starts with pork. So it’s maybe not totallly vegetarian, but this is a super duper light and healthy sauce with a crap ton of flavor and hardly any meat, which you can totally leave out.
Dinner! For Monday! Of for anytime, of course, but what I love about this is the teensy bit of decadence – a tiny bit of pancetta, two pats of butter, but other than that we’re dealing with a LIGHT dish. Plus, the tubes of polenta are ridiculously easy to work with, so that makes a really nice side dish with this. I use sweet potato and fennel in the sauce and then spice the heck out of the polenta, which is just the greatest contrast.
I actually made this yesterday while Jay and our friend Scott were recording a podcast that they’re working on, and it was just so much fun. They talk about life and food and annoying wives and it’s HILARIOUS. I can’t wait for you to hear it.
Onto ragout! It just means a chunky sauce or something. Let’s do it.
You need butter, pancetta, fennel, diced sweet potato (already diced from another dish I made), yellow squash, onion, garlic, canned diced tomatoes (I love fire roasted but that’s your call), chicken stock, tubed polenta, seasoned salt, and cayenne pepper. Obviously if you want this to be vegetarian just swap in veggie stock and skip the pancetta. Easy!
The prep work is really what takes the most time here, and I do it in batches: cut a few things, add a few things, you get it. So first, start the pancetta with 1 tablespoon of butter in a super duper large skillet over medium heat.
Then, dice the fennel! I use the whole bulb and stems and cut them into a small dice. BUT, this fennel bulb was massive so I just used the bulb and saved the stalks for something that I’ll make later this week.
Once the veggies and stock are all in the skillet together, increase the heat a little bit to bring the sauce to a bubble. Then just let it cook away for 20-30 minutes until all the veggies are cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
While the sauce is simmering, let’s get to work on the polenta! Now, this seems weird, but add some of the spices to the bottom of the skillet with another pat of butter – this kind of toasts the spices to flavor the polenta even more deeply. Turn the heat to medium.
Make this soon! It’s a nice riff on some standard Italian flavors that can get a little old, and the sweet potato and fennel are fabulous additions to a sauce like this. It also makes me feel better about the fact that for DINNER last night Jay and I shared mozzarella sticks and fried ravioli. No joke. Enjoy!
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 ounces diced pancetta
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 1 small bulb fennel, peeled and diced, leafy tops reserved for garnish
- 2 small yellow squash, diced
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tube prepared polenta, cut into 8 rounds
- seasoning salt
- cayenne pepper
- Place 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet with the pancetta over medium heat. Cook or 5 minutes until crispy and fat is rendered, then remove the pancetta to a small dish with a slotted spoon.
- To the same skillet with pancetta drippings, add the fennel and sweet potato. Stir, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the squash, onion, and garlic. Stir to combine the veggies and cook for 5 more minutes to soften them slightly.
- Add the diced tomatoes in their juices and the chicken stock. Increase the heat to medium-high, and let the ragout bubble for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stock has reduced and the veggies are very tender. Taste, and add salt and pepper to your preference. If the sauce seems very dry, add more stock as needed.
- While the ragout simmers, add the remaining butter and a sprinkle of seasoned salt and cayenne pepper to the bottom of a separate skillet. Turn the heat to medium, and when the butter melts add the polenta rounds in one layer. Sprinkle the tops of the rounds with more seasoned salt and cayenne pepper. Cook the polenta for 7 minutes on each side or until golden and crispy, turning once.
- Serve by spooning some of the ragout into a bowl, topping with some polenta rounds, and garnishing with pancetta and the reserved fennel fronds. Enjoy!