Devil in a Red Sauce: Polenta dell´Inferno or, Devil’s Polenta

Today’s dish really pushed me into unknown territory.  Polenta dell´inferno, translated to Devil’s Polenta, is a dish known everywhere in Switzerland, but especially in the Ticino area.

But what’s odd about it?  It contains both anchovies and capers. Capers I have no issue with, even though I rarely use them, but anchovies are another story. I remember picking them off pizza as a kid, and didn’t much care for my mom’s Caesar salad dressing.  Still, I’m a grown up now, and not afraid to retest cold waters, so in I dove.

This dish is usually served with rabbit, but since I had some quail in the freezer, I figured game is game and I’d use what I have. The sauce is the star of this show, so what you choose as a supporting cast is inconsequential.

Recipe from High End Travel Switzerland

Four servings


4 cups water

1 TB salt

1 ½ cups coarse grained polenta (did you know that polenta is just grits?)


For the Sauce

1 large yellow onion cut in rings

2 TB olive oil

2 TB tomato paste

2 tins packed anchovies

1 TB capers

1 cup dry red wine

1 TB garlic

1 TB dried sage

4 quail


1.  Salt the water and boil.

2.  Slowly add the polenta under constant stirring on medium to low heat and cook.

3. For the sauce, stew the onion rings in oil until they are glazed (do not allow them to become brown).

4.  Add the tomato paste, thinned out with some water.

5.  Cut the anchovies into small pieces and add to the sauce.

6.  Mix in the capers, add the wine and allow to reduce to approximately half.

7. Sear each quail about 3 minutes on each side to brown. Add to the sauce and cover about 15 minutes until the quail is all cooked through.

8.  Add the garlic and sage, then cook the sauce and let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.

9.  Pour over the hot polenta.

devils poletna

So what did I think? On first taste before it was fully cooked and reduced, I didn’t like it- the anchovy taste was too strong. However, after it cooked down, the flavor mellowed out and I actually ended up liking it. Would I make it again? Not sure, but if you like anchovies and capers, I would definitely recommend making it.

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