In Italian, a pasticcio is a mess. In the case of polenta pasticciata, it's a glorious, wonderful, rib-sticking mess, made by layering soft polenta with lasagna-like fillings, then baking it until browned on top. Here, we fill it with a rich mushroom ragù, then drizzle a cheesy Parmesan cream all over it.
'polenta' on Serious Eats
There are a lot of rules people say you need to follow to make polenta, like using a wooden spoon, stirring in only one direction, adding the polenta to boiling water, and stirring constantly. Forget those. What's really important is using the right ratio of liquid to cornmeal and cooking the polenta long enough for the cornmeal to properly hydrate and cook.
This easy one-pot polenta and kale soup hails from Italy, but we give it a distinctly Japanese twist: In place of the Parmesan called for in a traditional recipe, we finish ours up with the addition of miso paste, soy sauce, and scallions. It's savory, rich, and 100% vegan.
Polenta is the kind of stuff that's just begging for a flavorful sauce to be spooned into it. But pan-seared steak doesn't really provide much sauce of its own. The solution: Toss some juicy cherry tomatoes and chilies into the skillet as the steak finishes cooking. Their natural juices pick up the flavorful pan drippings and—with just a touch of olive oil—emulsify into a rich, flavor-packed pan sauce.
One of my favorite dishes to make in the winter is a big bowl of polenta topped with a scoop of whatever leftover vegetables are rolling around in the fridge. Sarah Copeland seems to be of the same mind. She has four (yes, four) different recipes for polenta in her new cookbook, Feast; here, she tops cheddar-filled polenta with a wilted melange of bitter greens and cherry tomatoes, a delicate poached egg, and a few crumbles of pungent blue cheese.
Polenta and greens take a new form in Mollie Katzen's tamale-like polenta packages. These small bites from her new cookbook, The Heart of the Plate, are surprisingly simple: make a pot of thick polenta laced with Anaheim chiles and sautéed onions, blanch a dozen chard or collard leaves, scoop, roll, and sauté.
These tender cakes make a great base for anything that's saucy and rich. While a thick ragu may be the ideal pairing in the evening, poached eggs are a perfect touch come morning.
Twin Farms Red Polenta with Wildcrafted Oyster Mushroom Broth from 'The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook'
This small plate combines hearty red polenta (Twin Farms grows their own, but it's easy to substitute), savory mushrooms in their cooking broth, and soft ricotta cheese. Gently fried garlic chips and whole parsley leaves round out the picturesque dish. It's a nod to the upcoming fall season, but isn't so heavy that you can't enjoy it in September.
Creamy Parmesan polenta is topped with moist chicken, caramelized shallots, toasted pine nuts, and nutty arugula.
This warm chocolatey pudding is eggless, creamy, and a snap to make if you use fine grain or instant polenta.
If Yorkshire pudding, cornbread, and soufflé could all get together and have a lovechild, that child's name would be spoonbread.
Ultra-creamy, garlicky polenta forms a fine foundation for rich, meaty tomato ragù.
Light, soft turkey meatballs simmered in a porcini-rosemary tomato sauce, and poured over creamy polenta. Perfect comfort food.
Rich and flavorful polenta is grilled then topped with marinara, basil, and parmesan to give this side dish the hearty feeling of a whole, satisfying meal.
Sweet cornmeal cookies with a ton of bright lemon flavor.
This recipe is adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.
Each savory little loaf has a ton of rosemary flavor.
Creamy polenta is topped with Sugo Finto, a rich meatless ragu.
When I think of polenta, I think soft and creamy cornmeal served warm from the pot, a delicious northern Italian staple. But polenta also comes in another form, where it's allowed to cool and firm up to be cut into shapes and re-cooked. Polenta in its soft form has always been my go-to—mostly because a grilled piece of cornmeal never much enticed me—until I came across this recipe in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, where it's breaded and shallow-fried.
This simple, light dinner is easy to prepare, and much of it can be made ahead of time—making this a perfect dinner to serve guests you actually want to spend the evening chatting with. Polenta chive cakes can be made the day before, and the shrimp can be marinated and placed on skewers at that time, too. So all you've got to do on a Sunday evening is make a quick green salad and open a bottle (or two) of wine.