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Tuscan Pork Stew with Polenta

Il Palagio's forests are home to packs of wild boar, which estate manager Paolo Rossi hunts and chef Joe Sponzo turns into a rustic, wine-based stew that gets served on top of buttery polenta. For cooks who don't have easy access to this "gamey beast," as Sponzo calls it, pork shoulder is a good substitute.


slideshow  More Hearty Stews


  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 6

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pork marinade
  • 1 bottle dry red wine
  • 4 rosemary sprigs
  • 4 sage sprigs
  • 1 red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
stew and polenta
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon very finely chopped sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons very finely chopped rosemary
  • Salt
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 2 whole cloves, 8 juniper berries, 2 bay leaves and 4 peppercorns, tied in cheesecloth
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups polenta (not instant)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. In a large, resealable plastic bag, combine the wine, rosemary, sage, red onion, celery, carrot, bay leaves, peppercorns, juniper berries and cloves. Add the pork and seal the bag, pressing out the air. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Rinse off the pork and discard the marinade. In a medium enameled cast-iron casserole, cover the pork cubes with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then drain. Pat the pork dry.
  3. Wipe out the casserole, add the olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the pork cubes, celery, carrot, red onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat and vegetables are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the sage and rosemary, season with salt and a pinch of crushed red pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer over moderate heat until it's nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the chicken stock and spice bundle and bring to a boil.
  4. Partially cover the casserole and cook the stew over very low heat until the meat is very tender and the liquid has reduced by half, about 1 hour and 45 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, bring the 8 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Whisk in the polenta in a thin stream. Cook the polenta over low heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the polenta is very thick and no longer gritty, about 30 minutes. Stir in the butter and season the polenta with salt.
  6. Skim the fat from the stew and discard the spice bundle. Stir in the parsley and season with salt. Spoon the polenta into 6 shallow bowls, spoon the pork stew on top and serve piping hot.

Suggested Pairing

Carmignano, a Tuscan region that essentially seceded from the Chianti zone in 1975 (at least as far as its wine goes), produces vibrant, structured wines from the Sangiovese grape, especially from its Barco Reale subzone—ideal for pairing with this slow-cooked pork dish.

Contributed By Published September 2007

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