Before leaving for a trip back to the US, I was invited to join my cousin and his family and friends for la polentata, or polenta party. They live just outside of Rome and I was going to pass a few days with them before my flight out. I was very excited at the prospect of joining a real polenta party! I had never been to one before, and even though my in-laws questioned why I was going to Rome for a polenta party, I couldn’t wait! Italians are very particular about traditional dishes and some think that polenta just can't be made outside of Lombardia (the region that is known for polenta). But seriously, it’s cornmeal in a box…something that can be made anywhere—even as FAR AWAY as Rome.
Moving on… So As could be expected, my train was late. Francesco was double-parked outside the station, anxious to get me and get home. I was whisked from Stazione Termini in the heart of downtown Roman madness and driven across town, over the river and through the woods to an area just outside of Ostia. I was the last to join this party of 13 hungry Italians eagerly awaiting my arrival. What a pleasure to meet a group fun-loving, traveled people that, for the most part, all work for the Italian culture department (they run the museums). I knew it was going to be a fun day.
The first task, after they smoked a few rounds of cigarettes, of course, was to get everyone in the dining room and situated with where to sit. Then the fun began…
There were two HUGE pots of food. One filled with fresh, hot polenta and the other with a delicious tomato sauce with plump sausages. Now I need to say a few words about wood: traditionally, polenta is served on wood. This could be a wood board or just a bare wood table where the polenta is poured steaming hot from the pot straight onto the wood in the centre of the table and people then serve themselves from a communal 'trough' of polenta. Or, in a much more civilised manner, it can be served individually on special wood plates. We had the latter, and I was very pleased.
I wish the internet was able to deliver to you aromas like a scratch’n’sniff sticker because the aroma of the sugo (sauce) was heavenly. And the taste...oh so hearty. This is Italian comfort food. The funny thing about eating with a large group of Italians is that even though everyone talks loudly and a lot and they are always animated and vivacious, when good food is on the table, the talking ceases and there is a moment of quiet while everyone savours the food in their mouth. And how you could not? Look at this delicious combination!