A Comforting, Italian Winter Recipe~

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Veal Tips with Polenta

Spezzatino della Nonna con Polenta

This is the Italian version of a dish most Southerners know well—Grillades & Grits. For Italians, this is hearty comfort food at its best.

Nonna taught this recipe to me while I lived with her and her family in Viterbo, Italy. I enjoyed it so much that it is one of the recipes I featured in my book! In this recipe, it calls for white wine since it is veal tips, but you could use a red wine if making it with beef tips or stew beef.


If there is one thing I learned from my time with DaVinci Wines in Italy as part of their 2012 Storyteller Experience is that you should drink what you like when eating what you like. This means, if you prefer red wine over white, then cook and drink with red wine for this recipe, regardless of the type of meat you are using. If you prefer white, then use and drink white wine. Don’t let wine snobbery get in your way! [Note: I prefer to make this dish with white wine, whether I am using veal or beef.]

Served with some warmed, crusty country bread and a glass of wine (again, either red or white), this will take the chill off of any fall/winter evening, whether in Italy, or in Alabama where I live. I suspect it will do the same in your home, too!

Veal Tips with Polenta

Spezzatino della Nonna con Polenta

For the Veal Tips:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 small onion, finely minced

1 large garlic clove, finely minced

1 1/2 pounds veal top round, cut into 1-inch cubes (beef tips or stew beef may be substituted)

1 cup dry white wine (such as DaVinci Wines’ Pinot Grigio)

1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1/2 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), PLUS a 1/4 cup of the juice from the can.

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, stems removed

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 10 minutes. Add the garlic, stirring until combined, and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine, scraping the browned pieces from the bottom of the pan, and cook until the wine as almost evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes into a small bowl, and using your hand, crush them into small pieces. 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, add a tablespoon of hot water at a time while stirring.  

*NOTE: This dish may be served over Polenta, recipe below— or served over grits or mashed potatoes.]

For the Polenta:

10 cups water

1 tablespoons salt

3 cups yellow polenta, medium-grind

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, or more to taste

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the salt and as the water starts to come up to a boil again, lower the heat slightly and, using a whisk, slowly pour in the polenta in a thin stream, whisking it into the water, always whisking in the same direction to help prevent lumps. When the cornmeal 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. Cook the polenta, stirring frequently, for 25 to 30 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.

Spoon the hot polenta into serving dishes and top with the veal tips and some of the sauce.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Wondering what to do with leftover polenta?

Pour the extra polenta onto a 9-inch x 13-inch baking sheet and spread until it is level. Let the polenta cool for 10 to 15 minutes and cover with plastic wrap to keep a skin from developing. When the polenta has cooled, using a knife dipped in water, cut the polenta into 3-inch squares and place in layers, separated by parchment paper, in an airtight container in the fridge. Leftover polenta slices can be grilled, pan-fried in some olive oil, or layered with sugo and mozzarella, and baked in a casserole.