POLENTA: the dish with endless possibilities

By • February 27, 2013 3 Comments

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Author Notes: This basic recipe (which is gluten free, vegetarian, vegan...and CHEAP!) is passed down from Nonna to my mother to me. I've gilded the lily by adding mozzarella, caramelized onions, etc. to grilled leftover polenta, and making "Polenta Lasagna." Perfect for a lone diner (save the leftovers to grill) or make a large batch to inexpensively serve dinner or appetizers for a big group or party. I could go on and on with ideas on how to serve and eat polenta, but the best thing of all is that with everything it has going for it, it's still incredibly delicious.Christina @ Christina's Cucina


Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small bunch of rapini, washed and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal
  • 6 cups water
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • caramelized onion-OPTIONAL
  • homemade marinara sauce-OPTIONAL
  • slices of mozzarella cheese-OPTIONAL
  1. Fry the onion in the olive oil in a large, heavy pot until translucent and just starting to brown. Add 4 cups of water to the pot, (and 2 cups to the cornmeal in the large bowl, and stir to moisten.) When the water is boiling, add the rapini and salt, and cook for about 2 minutes. Slowly add the wet cornmeal, stirring CONSTANTLY, until it has all been added to the pot. Continue stirring and cook over medium heat (should be bubbling) for about 20 minutes, adding water if the polenta is too thick. Keep scraping the bottom to make sure the polenta doesn't start to stick. Be careful not to let it boil too fast or it may bubble out and onto your skin!
  2. When it has thickened and it looks ready, carefully taste for salt (this is one of those things that will burn your tongue very easily, so be careful.) Add salt if necessary, then immediately pour into serving bowls and top with caramelized onions (or with marinara sauce and some parmesan cheese, if preferred.) If desired, pour polenta (leftover or not) into a square or rectangular dish and let cool. Cut the polenta, into 1" thick slices and then cut into similar sized pieces. Place on a metal rack on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler for about 15 to 20 minutes, until it starts to brown, then turn each one over and repeat for the other side (only about 10 minutes as the grill will be hotter.) These can be eaten as is, hot or cold, as a main dish or appetizer; topped with caramelized onion, mozzarella cheese (before grilling) or marinara sauce on the side for dipping. The possibilities are truly endless!
  3. To make polenta lasagna: layer some marinara sauce on the bottom of a dish, then top with polenta, more sauce, mozzarella cheese and repeat once or twice more, finishing with the sauce and parmesan cheese. Bake in a hot oven, about 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Serve immediately.

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