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Dinner Tonight: Polenta with Spinach 'Roman Style'

I just came back from Italy (where I ate magnificent food all day long) with great arm-length wedges of cheese, guanciale for carbonara, and enough olive oil to bathe in. Homesick for a place I'm not from, I wanted to put all the ingredients to use right away before the lingering memory of all that good food began to fade. So I reproduced two of the simplest dishes I'd eaten and made a very satisfying dinner of it: polenta with olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the classic spinach alla Romana with pine nuts, garlic, and raisins.

Great polenta is an art, but pretty good polenta is darn easy with quality cornmeal. The spinach dish is also a no-brainer, as long as a few tricks are used: The raisins must be soaked to increase their plumpness, the garlic must be browned gently for at least 5 minutes to bring out its nutty flavor, and the pine nuts should be cooked until golden, but not burned. The resulting dish is hearty, punctuated with bites of sweetness and creamy pine nut, and imbued with savory garlic. With the polenta, it's a terrific dinner.

About the author: Blake Royer lives in Brooklyn and spends most of his free time cooking and writing about it here at Serious Eats and on The Paupered Chef. From 9 to 5 weekdays, he works as an assistant book editor in Manhattan.

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