Herbed and Roasted Ricotta Whey Polenta with Fresh Ricotta and Apples

November 19, 2011
4 Ratings
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

Several years ago I discovered Food52er Jennifer Perillo’s simply perfect, utterly foolproof Creamy Homemade Ricotta. Once you’ve made the ricotta, you can use the luscious, flavorful whey in baked goods, creamy soups and especially, polenta. I prefer to roast polenta when not serving it soft, using the method recommended by Judy Rodgers in her recipe for herbed polenta in “The Zuni Café Cookbook,” which recipe I’ve adapted here, using whey instead of water. I like thyme with apples and I like winter savory with thyme, so I use both in the polenta. You could just as easily use pears, substituting whatever herbs appeal to you, if you like. NB, my friends: Perillo’s ricotta produces by far the tastiest whey of any ricotta I’ve made, so for the best polenta, you really should use that recipe. I add 2 fresh bay leaves at the outset to infuse the cheese and whey very lightly. You can leave them out if you like. Also, please note that you’ll have about 1 ½ cups of whey left over. You should freeze it to use another time. If you want to make polenta for another recipe, simply fill out the remaining ½ cup of liquid with water. I hope you enjoy this. ;o) —AntoniaJames

Test Kitchen Notes

I've always hated throwing out the leftover whey from ricotta-making and now that I have AntoniaJames's fine method for make beautifully creamy ricotta, I'll never discard whey again. This recipe produces an impressive, attractive dish with great layers of flavor. But be aware that it is a multi-step, possibly multi-day, affair—not a quick breakfast to pull together at the last minute. Also, be sure to read the recipe all the way through to the end before you start as there are some important notes you need for the beginning! —vrunka

What You'll Need
  • The Polenta
  • 4 cups ricotta whey, from Jennifer Perillo’s Creamy Homemade Ricotta
  • 1 cup coarse cornmeal (preferably organic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh winter savory
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Breakfast
  • ½ stick (2 ounces) salted butter, divided in half
  • 5 medium apples (use a firm but not too tart variety)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 batch of Creamy Homemade Ricotta (see note below) -- Save the whey!!
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup (or more to taste), warmed
  • Bacon for six
  1. The Polenta
  2. Bring to a boil several cups of water in the bottom piece of a double boiler. Put all of the polenta ingredients, except the cheese and nutmeg, in the top half of the double boiler and stir gently.
  3. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring gently every few minutes. (Check to make sure the bottom pan doesn’t go dry during that period. Add more water if necessary. It shouldn’t be, but you never know.) After 30 minutes, the polenta should be somewhat thick, but not stiff.
  4. Stir in the cheese, turn off the heat, then cover the polenta, leaving it in the double boiler, over the hot water. Let it sit for at least 45 minutes.
  5. Put the polenta in a generously buttered 8” square baking dish. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  1. Breakfast
  2. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Brush it on the polenta. Score, then cut the polenta into 6 rectangles or 12 triangles, as you like.
  4. While the polenta is roasting, peel , core and slice the apples. Saute them in the remaining butter over medium heat, until slightly tender, about 5 or 6 minutes. (They should still be a bit firm.)
  5. Sprinkle on the nutmeg and toss gently.
  6. Serve roasted polenta with a healthy dollop of ricotta, topped with the apples, and then drizzle maple syrup over, to taste. Bacon on the side seals the deal.
  7. I do hope you enjoy this. Yours affectionately, AntoniaJames ;o)
  8. N.B. When making the ricotta for this, I add two fresh bay leaves at the same time that I put all of the ingredients for the ricotta into the pot. I tear them gently 3 or 4 times to release more of their flavor, as they infuse the milk. Remove them when separating the curds from the whey. ;o)
  9. Here is a link to the only ricotta recipe you'll ever need: Jennifer Perillo's recipe for "Jennie's Homemade Manicotti" is also to-die-for, incidentally. ;o)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • em-i-lis
  • fiveandspice
  • AntoniaJames
  • BlueKaleRoad

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

See problem, solve problem. Ask questions; question answers. Disrupt, with kindness, courtesy and respect. ;o)

15 Reviews

Jock May 24, 2015
I know this is an old thread and I don't know if anybody is still monitoring it. But, just in case...
I made this polenta yesterday and it was the best I ever had. I used it to make the breakfast (brunch, really) today and if too was delicious. I do have a couple of questions though. The recipe says to roast the polenta at 275 degrees but it doesn't say for how long. First question: how long do you roast it? Second question: 275 seems hardly hot enough to just warm the polenta. Is the oven really that low? Thank you,

AntoniaJames May 26, 2015
Jock, thank you for posting this. That 275 degree oven temperature may be a typo; I'm going to change it to 375. ;o)
Jock May 28, 2015
Thank you Antonia. That's what I set my oven to. How long do you roast it? Are we looking for any color on the polenta, or crispy edges? Thanks again

brothercadfael August 19, 2017
I am wondering. The same.

em-i-lis December 4, 2011
Can you really freeze the whey? Fantastic! AJ, this looks divine!
AntoniaJames December 6, 2011
Thanks, em-i-lis! Yes, you can freeze it. I do it all the time. Ricotta whey is magical in soups, as it remains very light, while giving the soup a luscious but very subtle cheese/cream background. I keep meaning to post my soup recipe, but my client work is so demanding in December, not to mention everything else going on (go to party, cook/bake, host party, cook/bake, repeat). I also use a lot of whey in my bread and other baking -- though I add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to neutralize its acidity. And of course, I use it in polenta. In fact, I've been making cheese to get more whey lately. ;o)
em-i-lis December 6, 2011
That's great to know!
I just wrote you a message directly but will thank you here too for the whey inspiration. :) I made a scrumptious whey rice pudding with cinnamon and honey this morning. It's glorious!
AntoniaJames December 6, 2011
You should post the recipe! What kind of rice did you use? I have some old arborio that I've been telling myself I need to turn into rice pudding. I used the last of my whey over the weekend, so I guess I'll have to make some more ricotta! ;o)
em-i-lis December 6, 2011
hey there! i did post the recipe; think it's called Honey and Cinnamon Whey Rice Pudding or the like. I used a blend of arborio and jasmine b/c I had less arborio than I remembered. Isn't it crazy how much of this ricotta you end up making once you discover the recipe? It's pretty much always in my fridge- I love it!
fiveandspice November 21, 2011
AJ this looks wonderful! I love polenta, ricotta, sauteed apples, bacon... I have a feeling this would land me in breakfast paradise!
AntoniaJames December 6, 2011
F&S, yes, that pretty well describes my experience with this . . . but I'd note that this is also a great dinner. I like to sub for the apples some condensed onions (a condiment like a confit made with caramelized onions, butter and herbs that I make regularly and keep in the fridge), some quick-seared caramelized zucchini and some sauteed mushrooms, which I toss together before serving. I'll often do the apples as well, with a bit of thyme, but just serve them on the side. Probably should post that, as it's a great make ahead dinner, i.e., the components can be made when preparing other meals, popped in the fridge, and then brought together on a busy night when you haven't much time to prepare dinner. ;o)
fiveandspice December 7, 2011
Oh my. The dinner version sounds divine as well!
AntoniaJames November 21, 2011
Thank you so much sdebrango. JP's ricotta is just amazing, isn't it? The whey is just as good as the cheese. I hope you try this. You will love it. ;o)
BlueKaleRoad November 21, 2011
I love this recipe! I've made Jennifer Perillo's ricotta numerous times and I agree it's the best. I'm always looking for new ways to use the whey (didn't think to freeze it) so this perfect. What a lovely, flavorful dish you've created!
AntoniaJames November 21, 2011
Thank you so much! The whey transforms polenta, giving it a lush, background flavor evocative of cheese, but that doesn't fight with the herbs. I hope you try it!! I put whey in soups, too, even bean soups where I crush some of the beans to make it sort of creamy, e.g., Anasazi beans with ham shank, for a sort of upscale "Senate Bean" soup.