Pork ragu on soft polenta and steamed orange pudding – the menu seemed perfect for our wintery weather just a few days ago as we gathered in our lounge room in front of the fire. But now we’re in t-shirts and bare feet, have changed to our summer doona, and taken our daughter out of her winter sleeping bag. The ragu and polenta leftovers are sitting in the fridge and looking rather unappealing, as instead I’m thinking about crunchy salads or skewers and asparagus on the barbecue to match these balmy days. And I’m wondering about how I can use up all that polenta.
I thought of a pizza I love to make with a dough that usually uses potatoes. It comes from a recipe in Winter in the Alps by Manuela Darling-Gansser, a book full of fantastic Swiss–Italian comfort food. The potatoes are boiled and pressed through a ricer (or mashed), then mixed into the dough, and I had the thought that cooked polenta would do a pretty similar job. It does!
The orange- and cinnamon-scented pork ragu, with the meat pulled into shreds, made a brilliant sauce for the pizza with a sprinkling of parmesan. But other toppings I’ve made in the past include leftover zucchini and feta salad; an eggplant, tomato and basil pasta sauce; and a simple combination of crushed garlic, cheese and herbs, which makes it a good accompaniment to a soup or salad.
This pizza is unfashionably thick and very soft and moist, but a delicious crust forms on the bottom, and the dough is the perfect creamy foil for rich toppings (especially tomato-based toppings such as leftover pasta sauce). I also love this pizza because it requires no kneading and can be stirred together in a couple of minutes.
200 ml boiling water
200 ml cold milk
1 teaspoon dried yeast
250 g leftover cooked polenta
400 g plain flour
1½ teaspoons salt
Combine the boiling water and cold milk in a large mixing bowl – this should give you a good tepid temperature for the yeast. Stir in the yeast and leave for 10 minutes or so to activate.
Add the polenta and mash it into the milk until free of lumps. Add the flour and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.
Put a generous slosh of oil in a large tray (or a large skillet as I have used) – the larger the better, as you don’t want the pizza to be really thick – and spread the oil out. Spoon in the dough and spread it to the edges. Leave to rise in a warm place for 1–2 hours, or until it has almost doubled.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Put your topping on the pizza. Put the pizza into the hot oven and cook for about 30 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom.