Frattacc e Minestra

On the weekend before Ash Wednesday, while my family and my husband’s family were over for Sunday dinner, I made a meal that my Mom and sisters hadn’t had for many years.  The meal is a typical recipe from Gallo Matese which is the town in Italy that my family comes from.  This is a hearty and filling meal.

The meal includes Frattacc (hard polenta) and Minestra (savoy cabbage with beans and sausage).  My sisters raved about the Frattacc.  I use great dried great northern beans in the Minestra and the meal should be made only after there has been a hard frost in the fall, as the savoy cabbage tastes better at that time.

Yield:  1 large family sized Frattacc

Ingredients

Beans:

  • 1/2 lb dried great northern beans (about 1 mug or 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 to 4 cups water
  • 3 to 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda, divided

Sausage:

  • 8 to 10 sweet Italian sausage links

Minestra:

  • 1 large or 2 medium savoy cabbage heads
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 to 2 quarts water

Frattac:

  • 1 lbs corn meal
  • 6 – 7 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt (to taste)

Directions:     

  1. Soak all beans in 3 – 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon baking soda overnight in a sauce pot; then drain and rinse well (rinse at least 3 times).
  2. Replace 3 – 4 cups water and add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda.  Bring beans to a boil and then lower heat to simmer.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  Add peeled garlic cloves after piercing with toothpicks (so they float and are easier to pick out).  Cook until beans are tender. Remove garlic cloves before they start to fall apart.
  3. An easy way to cook the sausages is to broil them in disposable aluminum pans.  Prepare the sausages by cutting two slits on the tops and bottoms and transfer them to the aluminum pan.  Broil on high for 5 – 10 minutes. Turn sausages over and broil another 5 – 10 minutes until cooked through..
  4. Wash and tear savoy cabbage leaves into smaller pieces.  In a stock pot add the cabbage, water (enough water to about half way as high as the savoy cabbage) and 2 teaspoons of salt.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a fast simmer.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  5. Cook until the thickest parts of the savoy cabbage is fork tender.  Add beans, sausages and a tablespoon of the sausage drippings to the savoy cabbage.  Cook for another 15 minutes so the flavors meld together.
  6. To cook the Frattacc, bring to a rolling boil the 6 – 7 cups of water with the 2 teaspoons of salt in a separate stock pot.  Frattacc needs plenty of salt for it to taste good.  You will need to taste the water periodically before the corn meal is stirred in to ensure that there is enough.  If the taste is too bland, add salt to taste.
  7. After the water is at a rolling boil, lower the heat, so the water isn’t boiling as hard.  Begin adding the corn meal by making a mound in the stock pot.  Keep adding the corn meal using small handfuls at a time until all the corn meal forms a large mound partially above and partially below the water.
  8. Let the water and corn meal continue boiling for about 30 minutes.  Do not stir until 30 minutes has passed.
  9. After 30 minutes, begin breaking up the mound of corn meal and stirring it vigorously to incorporate it into the water.  It will be difficult to stir the mixture as it is thick but continue to stir until most of the lumps are incorporated for at least 10 minutes.
  10. Place heat-proof materials on the seat of chair and take the pot from the heat and place it on the seat of a chair to make it easier to for the next step.  Using a large flat wooden spoon gather the Frattacc to one side of the pot near a handle towards you, turn the pot 180 degrees so the Frattacc is on the side of the pot that is away from you.  While holding the handle that is close to you, begin scraping a thin slice of the Frattacc mixture (from the top of the mound to the bottom) towards you and up against the empty side of the pot.  Continue scraping thin slices to the Frattacc mixture towards you until all of the mixture is piled up on the side of the pot nearest you.
  11. Turn the pot 180 degrees again and repeat the scraping process another three times.  This will help incorporate all the corn meal and help to dry out the Frattacc to the right consistency.
  12. Place the pot on low heat for 5 – 10 minutes to help the Frattacc stay together.  Pat the outside and top side of the Frattacc so it appears more smooth.  Don’t worry about anything that might stick to the pot because soaking it in water will help it unstick.  Also anything stuck to the pot that you can scrape off and eat is delicious.
  13. Take the pot off the heat and have a clean dishtowel centered on a plate so you can turn the pot over and the Frattacc will drop onto the center of the dishtowel will a little help.  It will look somewhat like a triangle.
  14. Take a thick string (the string used by pastry shops to close their boxes is very good for this) and use it to cut the Frattacc from one low side to the other low side over the inverted V shape into 1″ – 2″ slices.  Then use the string to cut the slices approximately in half by cutting from one end of the inverted V shape to the other.  Cover with the unused ends of the dishtowel to keep it warm.
  15. To serve, place a piece of the Frattacc on one corner of a dinner plate, add a couple of large spoonfuls of the Minestra with the beans alongside the Frattacc and ensure a sausage is also placed on the plate.
  16. To eat, each forkful should include a piece of Frattacc, Minestra and sausage.

With the leftovers, you can make Le Frecule.  To do this, heat a tablespoon of oil in a sauce pan, add crumbled Frattacc to brown lightly and then add Minestra without sausage and cook until heated through.  There aren’t really measurements that go with this; it just has to do with how much is left over but usually there is about 2 parts Minestra to 1 part Frattacc crumbs.  Enjoy!!!