Easy, Peasy, Creamy Polenta

Cheesy Italian Polenta

Polenta is a traditional Italian dish made from cornmeal and while simple in its nature, it can be dressed up and takes on other flavors very well. My favorite polenta dish is at the Black Cat Bistro in Cambria, CA where it is complimented with three cheeses (goat cheese, asiago, and mozzarella, a tasty trinity!), various veggies, and a tomato coulis. This dish was so amazing that I still think about it….five years later! While I did not get as adventurous on my first go around (only one cheese here people), polenta is surprisingly really easy to make and I do not know why I did not experiment with this dish sooner. Boiling water, stirring in cornmeal, and a few consecutive stirring sessions later, your polenta is done! In an Italian fashion, I topped mine with a simple homemade tomato sauce and shredded chicken breast with a sprinkle of basil. Once you get this simple process under your belt of easy dishes to impress, you can stray from the traditional and get creative! Best of all, polenta can be enjoyed the next day, sliced and baked or grilled, opening a new door of possibilities. Caramelized onions and fig preserves anyone?

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 cup of finely ground cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • Optional toppings: 1/2 cup cooked chicken, 5 tablespoons homemade tomato sauce, pinch of dried basil

Simple Steps to Creamy Polenta

  • Bring water to a boil in a medium pot.
  • Reduce heat to low and whisk in polenta and salt.
  • Once polenta has thickened enough so that it does not sink to the bottom of the pot, put the lid on the pot and set your timer for 25 minutes.
  • Every 5 minutes, vigorously stir the polenta, making sure to scrape the corners and bottom of the pot so that it cooks evenly; return the lid after every stirring session.
  • After 25 minutes, check the consistency of the polenta. If you desire a thicker polenta, cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the butter and cheese; remove from heat once it has been thoroughly combined.
  • This dish should be served immediately as it starts to solidify after about 15 minutes off the heat. Enjoy as a side dish or top veggies and protein for a complete meal!
  • Since polenta solidifies in the shape of the container it is stored in, I suggest transferring leftovers immediately to a parchment-lined square baking dish. Cool in the fridge and then slice into squares. Leftover polenta is great grilled or baked!
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