Recipe by Angie Pontani
Start to Finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes (Plus Chilling Time)
Servings: 4 (With Leftovers)
2 cups medium or coarsely ground polenta
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for topping
2 tbsp. lard or butter
1 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for frying (about 1 qt.)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jar (24 oz.) passata (uncooked tomato puree)
1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1. In a large saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil. Gradually whisk in the polenta. Cook, whisking often, until the water returns to a boil. Whisk in the stock. Reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring often, until the polenta is tender (it will be very thick), about 25 minutes. Mix in 1 cup cheese and the lard; season with salt and pepper.
2. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the polenta into the dish and spread in an even layer. Top with more cheese (about 2 tbsp.). Let cool for 20 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to cut, at least 2 hours or overnight.
3. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tbsp. oil. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring often, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add the passata. Bring to a simmer. Add the oregano; season. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer the pizza sauce, stirring often, until the flavors meld and the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
4. Cut the polenta into 1-inch-wide, 3 1/2-inch-long pieces. In a large deep skillet, add enough oil to measure about 1 inch. Heat the oil until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350°. Working in batches, fry about 4 polenta fingers at a time until crisp on the outside, 7 to 8 minutes per batch; bring the oil back up to 350° between batches. (Be gentle when turning the polenta fingers. They will be very soft until the outsides become crisp.)
5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the polenta fingers to paper towels. Sprinkle with more cheese. Serve with the pizza sauce for dipping.