Fegato alla Veneziana

Everything sounds and tastes better in Italian.

Take for instance, liver and onions.

When we were kids, we knew when we would be served one of our occasional meals of liver and onions.  The aroma of bacon frying followed immediately by the smell of cooking onions would tip us off to a dinner of dry, mealy, strong flavored liver.

Dad liked it. None of the rest of us did, but if that was what Mom cooked that night, that was what we ate.

So what was it that tempted me to order Fegato alla Veneziana on our first night in Venice?

We had wandered around trying to get oriented and it was time to settle down and have dinner. The restaurant we chose had a three-course prix fix meal option, so we took our seats at a table in the little garden in the rear and perused our menu choices.

Nero di seppie (cuttlefish in squid ink sauce with pasta),  was my starter.  Liver and onions was my second course.  I knew that this was considered a regional specialty and it came served with polenta so just how bad could it be.

I was not disappointed.

The dish came out, thin slices of slightly pink liver, golden brown, aromatic onions and a nice serving of soft polenta.  I couldn’t wait to dig in and was rewarded with nothing like my mother’s liver and onions (no offense, Mom).  The liver was moist and tender; not at all like I was used to growing up. The sweet, soft onions smoothed out the flavor (liver and onions have a natural affinity…think about a liverwurst sandwich with a thick slice of raw onion).  The polenta provided its own creamy, sweet corn taste to the dish. Excellent!

I’m not going to say I will be serving or eating fried liver regularly, but I can definitely say this is a simple and easy way to prepare what is actually a nourishing dish.

Fegato alla Venenziana

Liver and onions Venetian style

  • ½-pound fresh calf’s liver, trimmed of all skin, membrane and veins. Sliced ¼ inch thick and no more than two inches long.
  • 2 cups onion thinly sliced
  • 3 tbs of olive oil
  • 2 tbs of sweet butter, divided
  • 1 cup of polenta (corn meal)
  • 4 cups of water
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese

In a large skillet over medium low flame, melt two tablespoons of the butter into the olive oil. Add the onion, sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring as needed until soft and medium brown; about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring water to boil in saucepan. Salt the water and slowly add the corn meal while whisking it in to avoid lumps. When all the corn meal has been added, continue to stir until the porridge is bubbling. Turn down heat so that it is at an active simmer but not a boil. Cover. After 10 minutes, stir vigorously for two minutes. Cover and keep an eye on it. Polenta is done when it pulls from the sides of the pan.

When the onions have browned and softened, remove from pan with a slotted spoon. Raise the heat and add the liver pieces, making sure NOT to crowd the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Sear and flip over.  Turn the heat down and add back the onions. Cut the heat under the pan and stir to mix the liver and onions.  The liver should be cooked through, but still a little pink (not gray).

If your timing is right, the polenta should just be done. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and some grated pecorino Romano. Season with some fresh ground black pepper.

To plate, spoon some polenta onto a warm plate, add half of the liver and half of the onions. Repeat with a second plate, the remaining liver and the rest of the onions.

Serves 2

Try it, you might like it!

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2 Responses to “Fegato alla Veneziana”

  1. Mark Says:

    There doesn’t seem to be any bacon in this recipe. Que lastima.

  2. Jim Carlucci Says:

    That’s the good (I won’t say ‘best’) thing about this dish…bacon is not required. I admit, I did consider rendering out some guanciale to cook the onions in but stayed pure. This time.

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