Mess Hall Diaries: Comfort Food Sausage Mushroom Ragu

This week is all about comfort.

Two things I promise I won’t do in this post:

  1. Hide my fear and anger over the recent election results
  2. Write directly about the election…after this list.

Here’s what I will do:

  1. Talk about food

When I was young, watching my mom cook, I learned something very important.

Food is love.

Love of culture, love of tradition, love of the people you’re cooking for…love.

If you’re not cooking with love then you’re not really cooking and my mom made sure I knew that from an early age. It was one of the unspoken lessons of the kitchen. Since then, I’ve realized that it’s why I love cooking and why whenever I’m feeling down or depressed or scared or angry…I cook.

Today’s meal is true comfort food. Many cold stormy days were remedied with this dish. Sadness didn’t stand a chance and each spoonful would broaden the smile on my face.

My mother used this weapon liberally throughout my life to combat the blues and I will always associate this dish with her smile.

So, let’s begin.

First, what’s a Ragu and how is it different than sauce:

A ragu, is a thick chunky sauce usually cooked with several types of meat. I’d make a joke at this point about me and the dictionary…but you probably already did.

Now that we’ve got that cleared up, on to the polenta.

I’ve made polenta a lot throughout the years and normally I do a 3:1 ration of cornmeal to liquid. This time, because I wasn’t totally sure of that ratio and needed to confirm, I found a dude who recommended a 5:1 ratio liquid to cornmeal…so I did that instead.



This is what the polenta looks like when it’s finished…after lots and lots of whisking.

I used four parts water and one part veggie stock for my polenta for my liquid.

Normally, I’d boil the water and stir in the polenta like every other Italian person in the world, but internet dude said to pour in the cornmeal at room temp and stir till it starts to “pop”. Lower the heat and stir occasionally for about an hour. I did mine for an hour and a half until it was thick and creamy. (Another opportunity for “me” and “dictionary” here…)

I added some salt, pepper, and a half cup of parsley at the end, I like my Italian grits to be savory.

I have to tell you that this is the best polenta I’ve ever made…so internet dude might be on to something…or maybe not. You do you.

Now, for the meat.

I use sausage links and just pull the meat out of the casing. I find it’s easier to form into the size I want and honestly, it’s a better deal than buying bulk sausage…usually.


Mince up your garlic and start to fry that in the pot with some red pepper flakes. Add your meat to brown and then add your mushrooms.

I’ll usually salt and pepper at this point since the meat will go far to flavor the ragu anyways and no one likes a bland sausage.

After the meat gets a good sear it’s time to add in the tomato puree.


This is when the sauce comes together. Add the two cans and then rinse with hot water to get what’s left. DO NOT LET TOMATO PUREE GO TO WASTE. THAT IS A SIN AND WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.

Ok, after this add in your spices. My family’s sauce has garlic, oregano, parsley, basil and some red wine in it.

I won’t tell you how much of each, partial because I don’t know and partially because then I’d have to kill you…and I’m tired.

Let simmer for a long while, stirring occasionally and tasting to add in more of your preferred spice.

Finally, after hours and hours of preparation, you get to eat it. Normally, you due to polenta near the end as the OG dish is just a bowl of hot polenta with the ragu over top. Buuuuut, because I want to be on the Foodnetwork some day, I did it early so I could make it fancy.

I cooled it down and sliced it, pan fried it for some crust and layered my dish.

Top with ragu, some extra parsley and cheese and you get this:


Happiness in a bowl. Guaranteed to chase your blues away and potentially give you heart burn if you’re sensitive to acidic foods.

I hope you make this for people you care about. They will appreciate it. Maybe immediately or maybe 20 some odd years down the line when they’re making it for themselves after a particularly bad day or week.

For the record, I love you all. Eat and treat people well.


Ingredients list:


  1. Five mild Italian sausage links (1lb bulk)
  2. 2 packages of whole mushrooms – roughly 3 cups sliced
  3. 2 cans of tomato puree
  4. Garlic, parsley, basil, red wine, oregano, salt and pepper.


  1. 3 cups of polenta
  2. 12 cups of water
  3. 3 cup of veggie stock

Mess Hall

toddagarcia View All →

I’m an acting/improvising optimizing son of a gun.

I’ve been living and working and performing in Chicago since 2005. I love to eat, travel, talk and make people laugh. So for me this blog stuff is pretty neat.

I also like you. Whoever you are. I like you. For coming to my blog and sharing in my thoughts. I appreciate you. And I think you’re hot. So here’s to you, readers of my blog. Thanks for being awesome. Share and share a like!

Follow me on Twitter @toddawatomi and listen to my podcast with my besticle Ethan at!

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