On a cold, snowy morning in Yorktown, as I look out the large picture window in my living room and feel the warmth of a fire, I am reminded of Cortina d’Ampezzo and the many Northern Italian provinces that border southern France and Switzerland. On a day like today, undoubtedly, polenta and sausage of some kind will be on the dinner menu.

Polenta can be easily found in local supermarkets and specialty food stores in the area. Great Italian sausage of different varieties and flavors are also readily available. My late father was born in Abruzzo, along the Apennine Mountains.  Polenta was a winter staple. My recipe is polenta with sausage and mushrooms. I have modernized the recipe by using instant polenta and making the sausage and mushrooms as much as a day ahead.


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Cook the polenta as per instructions on the package. You can use water or broth to make it tastier. Be sure to do this when you’re ready to serve. Do not overcook. Place the warm sausage and mushrooms over a generous portion of hot polenta and generously top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a generous pat of unsalted butter. Pecorino Romano can also be used (a saltier variety of grating cheese).

Serve with a great Italian red wine. A great wine with this dish is Teroldego Rotaliano, from the Trentino-Alto Adige region. You are more apt to find a Ripasso, from the Veneto region or a Montepulciano D’Abruzzo from Abruzzo.

Sausage and Mushrooms

Place a generous amount of olive oil in a large skillet. Add chopped garlic (two or three cloves, depending on size). Heat on a moderate flame. Allow the garlic to sweat, but do not brown. Add two pounds of sausage cut into 1-inch pieces and brown on all sides. When you have browned all the sausage, douse the pan with red wine. You’ll need at least a cup of wine. When the wine becomes part of a sauce with the oil and garlic, douse it again. Now add the sliced mushrooms (which you have washed and cleaned) and brown; then douse again. Add some color by adding two or three tablespoons of tomato sauce. Top with some chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (Italian parsley). Don’t forget to taste for salt. I use “large” sea salt in all my cooking. Don’t overcook the mushrooms. Serve with polenta and top with unsalted butter and grated cheese. Buon appetito!  

From my kitchen to yours, saluti.

RoseMarie Panio, a longtime Yorktown resident, published a collection of recipes in October 2012. “Celebrate Italy and its Culture of Food and Wines” is available on Amazon.