June 3, 2010

Polenta, the Other White Meat

This actually has nothing to do with "the other white meat" a.k.a. Pork. But I thought it was clever nonetheless, (feel free to let me know it's not).

While pasta is wonderful, and it really is, I get bored with it and my husband goes through this odd sighing, eye rolling, and toddler tantrum thing when I mention the word. Enter Polenta. I know I've mentioned it before, but Polenta is wonderful! Think of it as we do: your pasta alternative.

I don't know about you, but there something about pasta that makes you want more and more of it. One bowl just doesn't cut it, and I shudder to think that I could actually eat a whole box myself. Besides that little confession making me seem terribly greedy, that's a whole ton of calories I'd rather save for chocolate. The simply joyous fact about Polenta is that its less calories and more filling than pasta and really, as far as I'm concerned, so much more interesting and tasty.

So here is my simple all purpose Polenta recipe. It's just as easy to make as pasta and only takes a little more time. But I think once you start making it, it'll replace your pasta as it has in our house. By the way, when you go to buy the stuff, don't bother with the fancy-schmansy boxes and bags, instead look for a bag or box of fine corn meal,  that's all Polenta is. I buy bags of Goya fine cornmeal for $.99 at the corner store.

I'm including the recipe for the meat sauce I made as well, but really feel free to use any sauce you would normally put on your pasta. Another quick word. This is for a firm Polenta, a Polenta you can cut and fry. A soft Polenta, something closer to a grit or even Risotto will need much more liquid and butter or oil.

1 cup fine corn meal (Polenta)
2 3/4 cups broth
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (you can use more too if you want)
Cooking spray or olive oil

-Boil broth
-Fill a glass or ceramic 8" square or 9x13" baking dish with water, then pour out leaving the interior wet. Also run a rubber spatula under the faucet, don't dry it.
-Once boiling, turn off the heat and slowly add the corn meal and cheese, mix or whisk until combined. Because this is thick, it might be hard to get completely smooth, don't stress too much about the lumps.
-Pour out the Polenta into the wet dish (the water will keep it from sticking to the dish, you can also use cooking spray or oil if you want, but water is free and has no calories), and with the wet spatula spread as evenly as possible.
-Let the mixture cool on rack for a few minutes, then stick in the fridge until completely cooled. About 20 minutes.
-Heat oil or cooking spray in a non-stick pan until very hot.
-Cut the Polenta, still in the dish, into slices or squares, whatever you want. Carefully remove from the dish and sear in the hot pan on both sides until a nice brown crust forms, about 3-5 minutes per side.
-Serve. This is also excellent cold or room temp.

Simple Meat Sauce
1 1/2 -2 lbs lean chopped meat (can be turkey, chicken, pork too)
1 large chopped onion
5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1-2 pints Crimini or Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
1 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes
2 heaping tbs tomato paste
3/4 cup red wine (you can use broth instead if you like)
1-2 tbs of olive oil
Copious shakes of dried Italian herbs
Salt & pepper to taste

-Sautee onions and garlic in oil until soft and translucent
-Add mushrooms and meat
-When meat is cooked through, add tomatoes, tomato paste and wine - mix well. Partially cover, put on medium heat and let boil down for 15-20 minutes or so.
-When sauce is thicker, less liquid-y, add parsley, salt, pepper, and dried herbs to taste
-Serve over Polenta or pasta. This will make plenty of sauce - probably enough for tomorrow too.


  1. Ohhhh yum! I'd forgotten about polenta somehow and am SO glad you reminded me how much I love it!! :-)

  2. Well I'm so glad, no one should forget about Polenta!

  3. This looks so yummy! I always think of polenta as a side dish, but I love how you make it front and center. Yum!

  4. It's a great alternative to pasta! It looks so appetizing with the meat sauce on the top.