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Creamy Baked Polenta

Sara Moulton

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Creamy Baked Polenta

Serves 4 as Side.

Hands-on time: 5 minutes

Total preparation time: 55 minutes

The corn meal mush known as polenta, one of the national dishes of Italy, emerged in its original form as the field ration of the Roman soldier. Although pulmentum was made of millet or spelt (cornmeal was unknown to the ancient Romans), it boasted the same versatility that we love in polenta today -- you can cook it up and serve it immediately while it is still creamy, or let it set up like a cake that can be sliced and sauteed.

Cooking polenta on the stove requires a lot of hands-on time -- and not a little care. It is hot and sticky and bubbles up and out in a Vesuvius-like way. Here I cook the polenta in the oven, which drastically decreases the hands on time. This recipe can do double duty as a great weeknight side dish or a vegetarian main dish topped with Porcini Mushroom Sauce (page 263) or some chopped canned tomatoes sauteed with onions and garlic, and a few bottled artichokes added at the end. A green salad would be a nice addition if you turn it into an entree.

  • 1 c yellow cornmeal or regular (not instant) coarse polenta
  • 2 T unsalted butter, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly milled black pepper
  • 2 oz provolone cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated (about 2/3 cup; see grating information, page 10)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine 4 cups water, the cornmeal, butter, salt, and pepper in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Bake, uncovered, on the top shelf of the oven for 40 minutes.

2. Remove the polenta from the oven, give it a stir, and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove it from the oven; stir in the provolone and salt and pepper to taste; let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serve topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Excerpted from Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals, published by Broadway Books and reprinted with permission. Copyright © 2005 by Sara Moulton. Pages referenced in this recipe are from the book.

Keywords: Side, Vegetarian, Easy, Dinner, Italian

( RG1578 )

Sara Moulton

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