No Waste Recipe: Polenta e Fagiano

Posted on October 21st, 2010 by Tonia 8 Comments

122 lbs [of food]. That’s how much enters the waste stream each month from the average American home (family of four). Ridiculous, sad, and incredible at the same time, isn’t it? A study conducted in 1995 estimated that 96.4 billion pounds of edible food was wasted each year — not to mention all of that probably went straight into the landfill.”

This quote is from this blog, which is where I also found this awesome/scary diagram of food waste in an average American home.

Food waste is an issue we all deal with approximately three times a day.  It’s especially troublesome for non-composting households.  I can’t count how many times I’ve cringed as I’ve scraped our leftovers into the garbage can, and I know firsthand that cooking for only two people is tricky…you either end up with more food than you can eat, or you air to the other side and then end up still hungry at the end of the meal!

I really appreciate it when I find a tasty recipe that makes enough food, yet creates little or no waste.  My Nonna {Italian name for grandmother} was the queen of no-waste-cooking.  She had a huge family and many mouths to feed, and she did so every day with a mystifyingly accurate eye for quantity/proportions.

There was rarely any leftovers after Nonna’s meals– not only because everyone was always licking every last delicious drop off their plates, but also because many of her well-loved recipes came straight from their small village in northern Italy, where people have limited resources.  When they cook, they use ALL of something in the process…nothing is wasted.

I am an itty-bit zealous about my Italian heritage, so I’m going to take this opportunity to say that Italy is awesome.  :)

The following recipe, straight from my Nonna’s cookbook, uses an entire chicken {the heart, the liver, everything}.  You will be delighted at how little you waste when making this meal!  Don’t be intimidated by the look of the recipe…if I can do it, trust me, you can do it.  It makes a lot of servings, so feel free to cut it in half if you’re cooking for less than about four people.

If it’s your first time dealing with a whole chicken, you might find this video helpful.  However, the chef in the video is using a chicken that has already had its heart and other organs removed.  For this recipe, you want all those organs for the sauce.  Simply reach inside the chicken’s chest cavity and scoop out the heart, liver, and gizzard before you begin cutting it up.

Pheasant or Chicken:

2-4 pheasants cleaned well and cut up, or 1 whole chicken

2-5 cloves minced garlic

large bunch of fresh Italian parsley {flat leaf}, finely chopped

2-3 onions, chopped

1/4 lb finely chopped chicken livers/heart/gizzard {basically any inside-parts you removed while cutting up your chicken}

1/4 stick butter

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tea. cinnamon

1 tea. fresh rosemary leaves, minced

3 bay leaves

1/4 lb porcini mushrooms {they usually come dried and chopped}

salt, to taste

fresh course ground black pepper, to taste

1 small {6 oz} can of Contadina brand tomato paste, dissolved in 2 cups water

Assemble and prepare all the above items before you begin to saute.

Melt butter and olive oil in a large sauce pan {even better, a deep Dutch oven, iron sauce pan, or heavy gauge pot.  You’ll need the extra space once you add the pheasants}.

Saute garlic, parsley and onions in oil and butter until parsley is bright green.

Add chicken livers, mushrooms, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Continue to saute five more minutes.

Cook pheasant pieces in saute mixture until brown.

Add tomato paste mixed with water.  Lower heat and cook over medium flame in covered pot for one hour, then uncover and cook until sauce thickens {usually another hour}.

cooking the chicken sauce


4 cups cold water

4 cups course ground yellow corn meal

2 1/2 tea. salt

Mix 3 ingredients together, set aside.

Boil 11 cups water in deep kettle.

Slowly add cold mixture of corn meal to boiling water, stirring continuously.

Simmer for 1/2 hour with cover, then remove cover and continuously stir with wooden spoon for 15-20 min until done.  The goal is to avoid lumps.  The polenta should be a creamy, smooth texture {about the thickness of hot cereal} when done.

Stir in a slice of butter at the end, to enhance the creamy texture.

Pour into glass baking dish and set aside.

When the polenta is done, serve up with sauce and shredded pamigiano cheese and eat immediately.


polenta y pollo



  1. mamamouseiam says:

    Mmmmmm, yum! I’d love to make this, but would rather you’d invite me over for dinner! ;D

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  3. Danny says:

    I love the idea of food posts! So much food is wasted all of the time and it really should be one of the easiest things to avoid. I think recipes should be a running topic! Plus, the photos add an extra incentive to follow your advice! :)

  4. Dave says:

    I grew up on this from my Nonna and my mother and I can’t think of anything that tastes better on this earth! Thanks for posting recipe

  5. Ciban says:

    What a great post! Thanks for sharing this on your blog.

  6. Terry says:

    This pasta is so amazingly delicious. (And we make LOTS of pasta around here!) Anyone who has NOT tried this recipe yet is seriously missing out on a peak experience! I added sliced chicken sausage to the roasting pan along with the squash, and I didn’t have feat so I used some fontina. Thanks for posting this!

  7. Karl Tiefert says:

    Thanks for the Polenta recipe.
    How can I minimize / eliminate the crust that remains in the pan after cooking polenta?

  8. Tonia says:

    Hi Karl, I use an enamelware pot for polenta, and it really works well and I get minimal crust/sticking. If you’re stirring the polenta the whole time, there shouldn’t be much stickage. Perhaps your flame is too high or you’re not stirring quite enough? Or your pan is too “grippy”…enamelware is what I recommend but any non-stick pan would work (just remember to use a wooden spoon to stir so that you don’t scrape off ay enamel/non-stick surface.) Good luck!

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