Monthly Archives: October 2012

Sugo Sauce on Creamy Polenta

I have been traveling quite a bit these last few weeks and am pretty exhausted.  Seattle last week, Chicago this past weekend, and am heading out to Boston early tomorrow morning.  With a mountain of laundry to tackle, I did not want to have to leave my house today.  The fridge was fairly empty (for me anyway) but I really wanted to cook something hearty but did not want to have to go to the grocery store (mainly because I wanted to stay in my pajamas all day).  This is when it is quite handy to have a well stocked pantry and freezer.  I opened up the pantry and saw some lovely polenta and imported Italian canned tomatoes calling my name.  I didn’t have any fresh milk so I was excited to see a couple of cans of evaporated milk (great substitute for fresh milk in cooked dishes).  I peeked in the freezer and found a pound of spicy ground Italian chicken sausage from my local farmers market.  In addition, I always have lots of red wine, half and half, Parmesan cheese, garlic, onions, and carrots.  So when I saw what I had in my freezer and pantry I thought a nice sugo sauce with creamy polenta was in order.  It was phenomenal. You must try this if you get a chance.  Fantastic northern Italian comfort food – Mangia! Mangia!

Sugo Sauce (serves 8)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 lb ground spicy Italian sausage (Note: I use chicken or turkey)

1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped.

2 carrots, medium diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons dried basil

2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)

1 – 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes (I like using imported canned Italian tomatoes – more flavor)

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine (Note: If you don’t have red wine, use white wine.  If you don’t have wine at all, use chicken or vegetable stock.  If you don’t have stock, damn you are hurting.  You can use water but the flavor will not be nearly as tasty).

1/4 cup cream sherry (Note: Cream sherry is a sweet dessert wine.  It is not expensive and will keep for a long time.  You can find it at most grocery stores.  If you can’t find it or don’t want to buy any you can add and extra ¼ cup wine)


Heat a large saucepan on medium heat and then add the olive oil, sausage, and onion.   Cook until the sausage is cooked through.  Add the garlic, and spices.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, and sherry.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 40 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Creamy Polenta (serves 4)

2 – cans of evaporated milk (Note: Don’t use fat free milk, 2% is fine.  If you don’t have evaporated milk you can use 3 cups of fresh milk)

1 cup polenta (you can sub yellow cornmeal if you can’t find polenta)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

¼ cup half-and-half (Note: use water if you don’t have half-and-half)

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese


In a large saucepan, bring the milk, butter, and salt to a boil.  Gradually whisk in the polenta – keep whisking for a few minutes to prevent lumps from forming.  Whisk constantly for 3 to 4 minutes to prevent lumps and then cover and simmer for 25 minutes (stir occasionally).  After the polenta is thick and creamy, take off the heat and then stir in the half-and-half and the Parmesan cheese.  If the polenta is too thick you can thin with water.  Check to make sure the seasoning is right, and add more a touch salt if necessary.

To Serve:

Place a heaping large serving spoonful of polenta on a plate or bowl.  Top with 1 cup (more or less) of the sugo sauce.  Serve with a leafy green salad to round out the meal.

Tip: If you do not use the polenta right away, spread remaining polenta in a small square container and place in the fridge.  The polenta will get firm.  After the polenta gets firm, you can cut it into squares or circles and fry them in a little olive oil and top with any leftover sauce.



Pork Palooza (sausage, pepperoni, and hot coppa) Pizza

There are two things that I generally make at least once a week, tacos and pizza.  Tonight it was pizza. I learned how to make basic pizza dough from my dad (RIP pops), it was the only dish in his culinary repertoire.  My dad never really measured any ingredients, instead he taught me how the dough should feel (e.g., soft, smooth, and elastic).  It’s the way I make pizza dough now.  Tonight however, I actually measured everything out for you.  After making it a few times I am pretty confident you will understand how the dough should feel and will ditch the recipe and make the dough by feel too.  Dad never made his own pizza sauce, but I like to when I have the time.  I think you will agree that it is far superior than the stuff in a can or jar.  It’s made from common ingredients found in most pantries and does not need to be cooked for a long period of time.  It can be simmering while you are preparing the dough, so there is no excuse!  The pizza is called Pork Palooza Pizza because it is topped with three different types of pork products — you’ll be in hog heaven with this trio of meats!

Since this is my first posted recipe, there is definitely going to be a learning curve.  Please feel free to shoot me a message if something is not clear.  Enjoy!

Pizza Sauce (for 2 large pizzas)

2 – 15 ounce cans tomato sauce

1 – 6 ounce can tomato paste

¼ cup water (or red or white wine)

2 tsp dried basil

2 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

½ tsp anchovy paste (Note: I love anchovies on my pizza, but the sight of them tends to freak some friends out.  To pacify them, and still get a bit of the anchovy flavor, I started putting a small amount of anchovy paste in the sauce.  You can find anchovy paste in the specialty food section in most grocery stores.  It’s usually sold in a small toothpaste-like tubes.  If you can’t find any or are boring, just substitute it with a ¼ teaspoon of kosher or sea salt.

½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes.  Cover and stir occasionally.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Makes approximately 2 cups.

Toppings (for 2 large pizzas)

2 – 8 ounce balls of fresh mozzarella cheese (sliced into ¼ inch thin medallions) – (Note: If you can’t find fresh mozzarella you can, begrudgingly, substitute 2 – 8 ounce bags of shredded mozzarella)

½ lb mild or spicy Italian bulk sausage

¼ pound of large (diameter) pepperoni (Note: I prefer to use Applegate pepperoni that is sold and sliced fresh in the deli of some specialty grocers because the quality is better and I can get it thinly sliced.  However, use what you can get.)

¼ pound of thinly sliced hot coppa (Note: Coppa is an Italian style dry cured pork shoulder and is freaking magnificent.  You can buy regular coppa or hot coppa.  The hot coppa is not overly hot at all and is what I prefer.  You can buy coppa in the deli section at most specialty food stores, like Whole Foods.  Have them slice it paper thin).

½ of a small bunch of fresh basil, chiffonade

Pizza Dough (for 2 large pizzas)

Olive oil non-stick cooking spray

2 cups warm water (~110° F)

2 ¼ tsp dry active yeast (Note: I buy my yeast in bulk, but you can buy yeast in a strip with 3 packets.  One packet equals 2 ¼ tsp)

½ tsp kosher or sea salt

1 tbs olive oil

4 – 4.5** cups high gluten flour (Note: High gluten flour can often be found in the bulk section of many grocery stores or even in the aisles that shelve all-purpose flour.  You can substitute all-purpose if you can’t find high gluten flour, but the crust won’t have a light chewy delicious texture – so don’t be lazy, go find some.  Do not use any leftover high gluten flour for muffins or quick breads because they won’t be as tender).

**Start with 4 cups of flour first.  You want the dough to be soft but you need to be able to handle it.  Add more flour if necessary. You may even need up to 5 cups of flour.  The amount of flour you need depends on many things such as the weather and even how you measure your flour.


In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, salt, and olive oil.  Gradually add the flour and stir until the dough comes together in a ball (can you a stand mixer with a dough hook).  Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for a 5 minutes on a well- floured surface.  Put the dough back into the bowl and spray the top of the dough with olive oil spray.  Cover with bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 1.5 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Prepared the large pizza pans by spraying with a little olive oil.  After the dough has risen, punch down the dough and form into two balls.  Roll each ball out on a well-floured surface and place into the prepared pizza pan.  Repeat with the other dough ball and pizza pan.

Spoon one cup of the pizza sauce onto the prepared pizza dough.  Spread evenly.  Place 8 ounces of the sliced mozzarella on top of the sauce (space somewhat evenly).   Top with ½ of the sausage, pepperoni, and hot coppa.  You may have to crinkle up the hot coppa and wedge it into some open space.  Sprinkle with half of the fresh basil.  Repeat the process with the remaining dough, sauce, and toppings in another pizza pan.  Place one of the pizzas on the middle rack on the oven.  Cook for 15-20 minutes (check after 10 minutes — at this stage I often slide the pizza off the pan right onto the oven rack to get a crispier bottom).  Remove from oven, cool for a moment, and then slice into 8 pieces.  Repeated the process with the other pizza.  Enjoy!

**TIP: I use fairly large pizza pans.  If you use medium pans you will have leftover dough.  I always roll any extra dough out and make a mini pizza for any special needs vegetarian friends (using a small cake pan) or I make bread sticks (roll the dough out, cut it into strips, brush with a tiny bit of olive oil, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and pop them in the oven for 10 minutes).

About Me

I started this blog because I basically have an insatiable obsession with all things food.  My friends (hell, even acquaintances) know that I like to look at food, buy food, talk about food, cook food, and every once in a while fantasize about food.  If you don’t feel the same, well, then I am afraid that it may be impossible for us to be friends.

I intend to use this blog to share my food experiences and the stories and people behind them.  In fact, most of the pleasure I get from cooking comes from sharing a meal with old friends and new ones.  My mother always told me that if you can cook, you’ll never be lonely — and she was absolutely correct!

Stay tuned for my inaugural post!

Happy cooking,


Note: The picture of the beautiful cupcakes is not mine (I needed a starter picture for this blog).  My 16 year old daughter, Olivia, took the picture and actually made the cupcakes herself.  She is quite the budding baker!