Its that time of year when we crave comfort foods like a steaming bowl of creamy gnocchi or perhaps some pasta with spicy sausage and loads of cheese. In my opinion, polenta falls in the same category but is often overlooked.
This recipe has polenta as a base; topped with oozing melted cheese, fragrant with basil pesto and studded with cherry tomatoes. It’s a satisfying alternative to pasta or risotto and this recipe tastes surprisingly light (not counting calories here, just commenting on the taste) – and extremely good.
All it needs is a salad of you favorite greens with a lemony dressing, or perhaps some steamed broccoli on the side. Or neither.
BTW, if you love polenta, I recommend trying this wonderful version made with butternut squash and sage – it will go perfectly with your Thanksgiving turkey next month.
So…here’s the featured ‘Dish of the Week’ – comfort on a plate. BTW, its well worth investing in a cast iron ovenproof skillet for this and other dishes such as’ tarte tatin’ or anything that starts on the stovetop, goes in the oven and gets inverted onto a plate. This doesn’t get inverted and is served straight from the skillet…you’ll need to let the hot bubbling cheese settle down a bit before serving – five to 10 minutes should be enough.
(Serves 4-6 as a main course)
1 tablespoon of extra-v olive oil
1 1/3 (415ml measure) cups of polenta
1 ¼ teaspoons of salt
4 (950ml) cups of water
2 tablespoons of basil pesto (preferably home-made)
2 cups (480ml measure) of halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup (240ml measure) of Gorgonzola, crumbled
1 cup (240ml measure) of soft goat cheese, crumbled
Pre-heat the oven to 450F (235C), unless you plan to assemble it ahead to cook later.
Brush the inside of an ovenproof skillet with one tablespoon of olive oil – set aside.
Bring the water, polenta and salt to a rolling boil over medium-high heat in a large pan, whisking constantly. I’d wear an oven glove on your whisking hand as its going to spit hot polenta-lava at you.
Continue to cook/whisk for about 3-5 minutes or until the polenta becomes very thick and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Turn off the heat, whisk in half of the pesto then pour the lot into the oiled skillet and smooth the top.
Scatter the halved cherry tomatoes over the polenta and dot them all over with the remaining pesto. Top this with the cheeses.
(If you’re going to make it ahead, cover and chill but bring it back to room temp before baking).
Bake in the hot oven until the cheese is bubbling (approx 15-18 minutes).
Cut the polenta into four (or six) and serve it directly from the skillet.