When someone in my family says, “it’s a polenta day”, I can precisely describe the weather without leaving the house or peaking out the window! Polenta has been the perfect comfort food in our home since my youth, growing up in San Francisco. At that time, this dish was usually reserved for cold, cloudy and drizzle filled days, which didn’t just occur during the winter months.
The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent Was a Summer in San Francisco Author Unknown
This is a popular quote about San Francisco. Although credit has been given to Mark Twain, he actually didn’t say this about San Francisco but did share his disappointment about the weather he experienced in Paris. Quote Investigator
Serving polenta always triggers fond memories, watching my mom cooking at the stove on drizzle cold days. I still LOVE polenta traditional style with Parmesan cheese, either stirred with butter or topped with marinara sauce. Polenta recipes have definitely become quite sophisticated today, with different serving styles and flavor options. We now enjoy this dish on cold days or warm summer nights, served as a side starch or as a gourmet first course for formal dining. An added benefit…it’s Gluten Free!
Today of course, polenta is one of the most glamorous players in the high, international interest in Italian eating. Perhaps we’re entering another golden age of polenta. Polenta, Past and Present, by Zingerman’s Food Tours
As we transition to long summer days and beautiful warm summer nights, below are some great recipes you can enjoy!
Traditional Polenta – side dish – serving for 4 or entree serving for 2
- 3 cups boiling water
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 cup corn meal
Corn meal works great. It is not necessary to purchase pricey boxes of polenta meal. I use Aunt Jemima Corn Meal.
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Optional – 2 tablespoons Mascarpone cheese, if you want a creamier texture
Add 3 cups water and salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. In a bowl add one-cup corn meal and 1 cup cold water. Stir until it forms a paste mixture. Add ¼ cup of the corn meal mixture to the boiling water. Stir until fully dissolved before adding additional ¼ cups. When the corn mixture has been incorporated, cover and let simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally (option…add mascarpone cheese for a creamier texture), until thickened.
Butter and Parmesan – Add two tablespoons of butter and stir. Top with Parmesan cheese.
Marinara and Parmesan – Top with your favorite marinara sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Chili and Polenta – My husband’s favorite – top with your favorite chili and shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
Butter and Gorgonzola Cheese – Add 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoon mascarpone cheese (if not previously added) and ¼ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese – a distinctive creamy texture and rich flavor.
Baked Polenta Pizza
- Follow Traditional Polenta Recipe.
- Pour into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan lightly sprayed with Pam. Spread the mixture evenly throughout the pan. Let it cool for about 30 minutes. Or, place in the fridge until you are ready to add toppings and bake.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Brush lightly with olive oil, add your toppings such as; favorite pizza sauce, sundried tomatoes, baby Portobello mushrooms, Kalamata olives, sliced fresh Mozzarella cheese (or use the mini fresh Mozzarella balls). Add a light layer of shredded Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until all cheese has melted, turning slightly golden.
- Let sit for 10-15 minutes, to become firm, before cutting.
- Option: Place in the fridge and cut up in smaller squares for a great cold appetizer.
Enjoy! As shown in the photos – before bake and after bake. I lightly brushed the top before baking with olive oil and Barilla Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, adding Kalamata olives, fresh sliced Mozzarella cheese, fresh chopped basil and shredded parmesan. Excellent!!
Grilled Polenta with prawns, roasted peppers and Gorgonzola – Serving for 4
- Polenta rounds, homemade or store purchased
- 1 each red, yellow, and orange peppers, to roast
- 20 prawns 21-25 count size
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoon chopped basil
- 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
- 3 cloves garlic diced
- Ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon (dash)
- Dash of salt and pepper, to taste
- 1- 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
You can make polenta and form your own polenta rounds by pouring the mixture in a baking ban for 1/2 inch thickness and then put in the fridge. When cool and firm, use press the top of a round glass into the firm mixture to form round circles. Or, purchase polenta packaged rolls available at most grocery stores, such as this Sun Dried Tomato Garlic Polenta product by Food Merchants.
Roasting peppers. Purchase a jar of roasted peppers or make your own. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut each pepper in half and remove the seeds and wash. Dry each half and place cut-side down on a Pam sprayed cookie sheet or roasting pan. Roast peppers for one hour or until blackened and charred on the top. Remove from the oven. Place peppers in a gallon size baggie and refrigerate for 1/2 hour+. Once cooled, remove from baggy, peel skin off and thinly slice.
Making the sauce. You can use your own favorite sauce, homemade or purchased. This is my simple recipe. Coat and heat skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 3 cloves diced garlic, 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil and 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped cilantro and sauté a few minutes. Add a dash of ground ginger, salt, pepper. Add 14 oz can of diced roasted tomatoes. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of Marsala wine and 16 – 20 peeled and cleaned uncooked prawns, 21-25-count size. Stir, cooking shrimp until they are done.
To serve. Add a tablespoon or two of sauce, on each plate. Place one grilled polenta round on top of the sauce. Top each round with 2-3 pawns with sauce. Top with a few roasted sliced peppers and crumbled Gorgonzola cheese. Option: Grill shrimp instead of cooking in the sauce. Add sauté Portobello mushrooms. Serve immediately.
Grilling polenta rounds.
- Slice to 1/2 inch rounds and brush with olive oil.
- Pam Spray your grill BEFORE turning it on.
- Place the rounds on the grill (about 350 degrees) and grill about 5 minutes on each side. You can also do this stove top or broil for a few minutes in your oven.
Polenta seasoned rolls are great to simply slice (1/2 inch) and grill. When grilling is almost done, add bruschetta or brush with pesto and sprinkle Parmesan cheese while still on the grill, until cheese melts. This makes for a great summer appetizer paired with a buttery chardonnay.
Additional Polenta Recipes
- Whole Foods Recipes – 24 Recipes and Ideas for Polenta
- Cooking Light – Our Best Polenta Recipes…29 of their best polenta recipes.
I’ve bookmarked the following recipes that look amazing!
- Polenta Toasts Balsamic Onion
- Goat Cheese Polenta
- Blue Cheese Polenta Vegetables
- Smoky Shrimp Parmsan Polenta Cakes
If you haven’t yet experienced the uniqueness of polenta and its versatility, give it a try!! There are so many ways to prepare this dish; polenta as a meal in itself, an appetizer, or a side dish, served throughout the year – rain or sunshine!! Maybe today… is your polenta day!
- Polenta, Past and Present, by Zingerman’s Food Tours, if you are interested in reading the history of polenta.
- Recipes – all recipes noted in the post are hyperlinked.