Spezzatino della Nonna con Polenta / Veal Tips with Polenta

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| Servings: 6 servings

This is hearty Italian comfort food at its best.

Served with some crusty country bread and a full-bodied red wine, this will take the chill off of any fall evening, whether in Viterbo, Italy, or in Alabama, where I live.


Veal Tips

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 ½ pounds veal top round, cut into 1-inch cubes (beef tips or stew meat may be substituted)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
  • 6 whole peeled canned Italian plum tomatoes (if using fresh plum tomatoes, run them through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, stems removed


  • 10 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 cups yellow polenta, medium-grind
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, or more to taste


Veal Tips

  1. In a large pan over medium heat, heat the oil and butter until the butter has melted and is bubbling. Add the onion and veal tips and cook until browned, 8 to 1o minutes. Add the garlic, stirring until combined, and cook for 1 minute.
  2. Add the wine, scraping the browned pieces from the bottom of the pan, and cook until the wine has almost evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the salt and pepper.
  3. Place the tomatoes into a small bowl, and using your hand, crush them into small pieces.
  4. Add the rosemary and crushed tomatoes (and their juices) to the pan, mixing until well combined. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender. If the sauce starts to thicken or dry out too much, stir in some hot water, one tablespoon at a time.


  1. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the salt. As the water starts to come to a boil again, lower the heat slightly, and using a whisk, slowly add the polenta in a thin stream, whisking it into the water, always whisking in the same direction to help prevent lumps. When the polenta is completely incorporated into the water, switch to using a wooden spoon and stir the polenta, crushing any lumps against the side of the pan to remove them. If the polenta is boiling or spitting too much, lower the heat a little at a time until it sputters without coming out of the pot. As the polenta cooks it will thicken.
  2. Cook the polenta, stirring frequently, for 25 to 3o minutes until it is thick and starts to pull away easily from the sides of the pan. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese.
  3. Spoon the hot polenta into serving dishes and top with the veal tips and some of their sauce.

Source: Beyond the Pasta by Mark Leslie