Polenta with black bean and spicy sausage stew

A staple with ancient origins, polenta has now found favour around the world. Mario Matassa demonstrates how wonderfully versatile it can be in this recipe for polenta with black bean and spicy sausage stew.

polenta with black bean and spicy sausage stew

Cooking polenta

There’s good news and there’s bad news. I always like to start with the latter, as it pays to finish on a high note.

So, for the bad, although polenta is very simple to cook, it takes time. Anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes. But you can always find something to do in the interim.

Traditionally, the proportions are 4 parts water to 1 part cornmeal flour. For a main dish for four people, I find that 400g polenta to 2 litres water and 1 heaped tablespoon sea salt works well. This will result in a silky soft polenta.

The process is simple. Bring the water to the boil, add the salt and then slowly add the polenta flour, stirring vigorously as you do so. This is important to avoid lumps forming.

Once all the flour has been added, lower the heat to minimum and allow to ‘bubble’ (it’s not a boil). At this point you can relax and stir occasionally around the base and sides of the pan.

Once it has finished cooking, you should have a creamy thick consistency that comes away easily from the sides of the pan, almost like a thick porridge.

When polenta is first cooked, the result will be a thick gruel. It’s often likened to a porridge.

At this point, it is simply ladled into a bowl and topped with anything from a rich stew, a meat ragù, tomatoes and fontina (polenta alla pizzaiola),or at its most simple, melted butter and fresh sage (polenta concia), perhaps with a little mountain cheese such as Toma.

Polenta with black bean and spicy sausage stew | Polenta con fagioli e salsiccia


➤ PREPARATION: 10 minutes

➤ COOKING: 20 minutes


  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium red pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 250g spicy Italian sausage (if unavailable, use chorizo)
  • 1 hot chili pepper (optional)
  • 400ml tomato passata
  • salt and dried oregano
  • 350g black beans, tinned (you can use dried but you will need to soak them overnight and cook in advance)
  • 400g polenta flour
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • extra-virgin olive oil


  1. To make the sauce, add the onions and garlic to a heavy-based frying pan and heat gently. Once the onion begins to soften add the red pepper and continue cooking.
  2. Chop the spicy sausage into small pieces and add to the pan along with the chili pepper, if using. Cook for a couple of minutes until the sausage begins to render. Add the tomato passata, a little salt and about a teaspoon of dried oregano. Top with a little water and cook gently for about 20 minutes. Add the beans and continue cooking for about 10 minutes until the polenta is cooked.
  3. Cook the polenta as explained above. You are looking for a soft creamy polenta, therefore if it begins to thicken too much, add an extra splash of water. Once the polenta is cooked, add a couple of ladles to each bowl and top with the beans and sausage. To finish the dish, add a good sprinkling of parsley and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.

Recipe and photo by Mario Matassa

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