La Vera Cucina

Quaglie e Polenta

Some of Dante Barile’s warmest memories of growing up on his family’s farm in Lomellina, Italy, involve huge family meals gathered around a huge bowl of polenta made with corn they had grown and milled. His wife, Miriam, also remembers gathering with her family to enjoy wild quail. That is why they chose to name their Montreal, QC, Ristorante Il Cenone (Ill Chay-no-ney), literally “the big meal” in Italian!

Here is Dante and Miriam’s recipe for Quaglie e Polenta (quail and polenta), which combines both family traditions and is best enjoyed with plenty of family and friends!


  • 4 semi boneless quails
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary
  • 3 large onions, cut lengthwise
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups of white wine
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup pecorino cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

Polenta Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups coarse yellow cornmeal



Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season the quail exterior with salt and pepper, placing one sprig of rosemary in each cavity. Add the quail, onions, garlic, wine, and olive oil to a roasting pan and cover. Bake in the oven for 1½ hours. The quail should be made first and kept warm in the oven.

In a large heavy pot, bring water to boil and add salt. Slowly pour the polenta into the water while whisking. Reduce the heat to medium low and whisk every couple of minutes for about 40 minutes. The finished polenta should be thick and pull away from the sides of the pot. Polenta by itself is full of fiber and is a gluten free food. The toppings are what will give it its taste.

Plate each quail separately. In a large serving bowl, layer a spoonful of polenta, the juices from the roasting pan, roasted onions and finally cheese. Repeat these steps of layering polenta, juices, onions and cheese to create a secondary layer. Everyone can enjoy picking at the polenta with a fork from their section of the serving bowl. Serves 4. Buon appetito!

About Polenta, an Authentic Old Country Stapl

Polenta (poe-lenn-tah) has been an authentic staple of Italy as far back as the 15th century. During those times of feudal wars and accompanying food shortages, polenta (made by boiling coarsely ground cornmeal flour) was often the only food available to the country folk of Northern Italy. From its beginnings as simple country fare, polenta’s popularity spread throughout many regions of Italy. In multi course Italian meals, this hearty, highly economical staple is enjoyed as antipasto, in place of a “pasta” course, or accompanying the entrée.