Mid-winter is a good time for comfort food. We crave rich, cheesy dishes that warm the stomach and soul. I’ve read about polenta in a few different places recently and finally decided to try my hand at making it. Turns out, it’s super easy and you don’t need to buy special “polenta” if you happen to have regular cornmeal in your pantry (I always have cornmeal on hand, since I end up making some variation of these pancakes almost weekly). The butter and cheese in this recipe are optional; I used parmesan because we that’s what we had, but I imagine you could use a different kind of cheese (or leave it out altogether, but really, who would do that?). Polenta would be great as a base for a nice tomato sauce or for any combination of sautéed vegetables. On this particular occasion I threw together a quick sauté of mushrooms, leek, and onion because: A) we had them around, and B) I thought the flavors would go nicely with the polenta. They did. (I seasoned the veggies with oregano, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.) We’ll definitely make polenta again and I look forward to experimenting with different toppings and accompaniments.
What’s your favorite way to make and/or top polenta?
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Creamy Polenta (adapted from this recipe)
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup cornmeal (coarse ground is best) or polenta
- optional: 1-2 cups parmesan cheese, grated
- optional: 1-3 tbsp salted butter
- Bring the water to boiling and add the salt. Pour in the cornmeal, whisking briskly until it thickens enough that no cornmeal settles back to the bottom of the pot.
- Turn the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for 30-40 minutes (longer for thicker polenta), stirring vigorously every 10 minutes.
- When the polenta is done to your liking, stir in the cheese and butter and serve topped with your favorite sauce or sautéed vegetable combination.