¼cupParmesan cheesefresh grated + extra for serving (optional)
¼cupfresh Italian parsleychopped (optional)
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the sausage and cook stirring until crumbled and browned; about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove sausage from the skillet with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a bowl lined with paper towels or a sieve to drain. Remove the skillet from the heat, but do not wipe out the pan.
Meanwhile, finely chop the onions and carrots. Return skillet to medium-high. If the sausage did not render enough fat add some olive oil if needed. When the oil is hot, add onions and carrots to the skillet, sprinkle with salt and pepper and give it a good toss incorporate. Let the carrots and onions cook over low heat at least 15 to 20 minutes to allow the carrots to soften and allow the flavors to develop, stirring occasionally.
When the onions and carrots are tender, add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
Push the onion mixture over to one side of the pan and add in the tomato paste. Allow the tomato paste to brown, stirring constantly. Cook the tomato paste, until you see it start to change from a bright red color to an orangy rust color. At this point, the paste is caramelized and full of flavor. (See notes)
Add the Italian sausage back into the pan. Stir the mixture well to incorporate it all together.
Next add in ½ cup water, and tomato sauce. Season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste. Let the ragu simmer for at least 30 to 45 minutes, but if you have time, cover and let it simmer for an hour to two hours.
Make the Polenta:
Bring the remaining 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the polenta with a spoon or a whisk. Reduce the heat and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until thickened; about 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese and turn off the heat. Cover and let stand for a couple of minutes before serving.
Serve the sausage ragu poured over the polenta, sprinkled with fresh parsley and extra parmesan cheese, if desired.
The Sausage: When making this ragu, feel free to use any type of meat you like. You could use pork, beef or turkey sausage, or a combination of meats. You could also substitute with plain ground meat and season the meat with your own blend of Italian spices. For example, a combination of both ground beef supplemented with some pork will render a little more fat, have a sweeter flavor and a with a fine texture. If the sausage does not render enough fat, add some additional olive oil if needed. The Tomato Paste: Browning tomato paste is the greatest tip I have ever learned. You can learn more about browning tomato paste HERE.The Polenta: Be careful not to oversalt the polenta. The parmesan cheese will give it more salinity.Recipe adapted from Cooking Light Magazine.
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