I’ve been trying to get better at meal planning for the week, as I already make about 24 stops at Wegmans/Trader Joes/public market/natural foods store each week. It never fails, I inevitably forget an ingredient or pick up a quick meal. I always have the best intentions to do a weekly shop…
A few weeks ago, I picked up some hot turkey Italian sausage at a great price, but never had time to make it, so I promptly tossed it in the freezer. When I did said weekly meal prep, I decided to cook up that sausage with some marinara. I wasn’t in mood for pasta, so I decided to make the classic Italian side dish, polenta.
Mm, polenta. Have you ever tried it? Polenta is not for weeknight cooking. Classic polenta is made from humble cornmeal, and it takes a while for the cornmeal grains to swell up and cook properly to become tender, yielding that creamy finished texture, not unlike grits.
Polenta is remarkably simple, in both technique and number of ingredients. I used homemade stock for mine, but if you use store bough stock, please try and buy low sodium, as you’ll want to adjust the salt you use. Most recipes have you add the cornmeal to boiling water, a la quinoa or pasta, but not here! I think that contributes to the risk of lumpy polenta; no thank you! We want smooth and creamy: starting both cold and lots and lots of whisking will alleviate that risk.
Leftovers can be cut into squares or triangles and fried crisp in a pan with some oil; you’ll see the leftover polenta will thicken up considerably.
Serving this under sliced Italian sausage and marinara sauce was a hit, and a delightful change from pasta. This homey, cozy side dish is perfect for short January days.
basic, perfect polenta.
adapted from New York Times Cooking.
4-5 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese plus 1 tablespoon (I have used an Italian cheese blend with mozzarella, fontina, romano with success).
In a deep saucepan or saucier (2-3 quart), combine the stock, cornmeal, olive oil, salt and pepper over medium high heat. Whisk often (consistently, if not constantly), until the mixture comes to a boil.
Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking often, until mixture starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Polenta mixture should still be slightly loose. Partially cover and cook for at least 45 minutes, whisking every 5 minutes or so. When polenta becomes too thick to whisk, stir with a wooden spoon, adding the additional cup of stock if needed (I always add 5 cups in total). Polenta is done when it pulls away from the side of the pot, and individual grains are tender and creamy.
Turn off heat and gently mix 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into polenta until cheese has melted. Cover and let stand 5 minutes to thicken; stir and taste for salt before transferring to a serving bowl. Top polenta with about 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish.
**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible**