winter comfort food aka polenta

polenta with tomato sauce

I come from a strong Italian background.  Needless to say, I’ve grown up on A LOT of pasta.  Pasta is great and all but sometimes I just want something more…comforting.  Polenta is great for this.  Polenta is considered a peasant food in Italy, as its very cheap and filling.  It’s basically a coarsely ground cornmeal.

uncooked polenta

You cook it into a sort of porridge.  And if you have any leftovers you can pan fry them until they’re crispy.  (I may or may not have made these polenta fries a million times last winter)

Polenta cooks up in about 10-15 minutes.  Its pretty easy to make, although you do have to have the patience to whisk it practically the whole time.  I grew up watching my papa make the stuff all the time, even for breakfast.  To me, the stirring is comforting, almost like a ritual.

Just remember the ratio of 4:1 when you’re cooking it (4c liquid to 1c polenta)  Polenta goes great with all kinds of toppings, but I especially like it with a thick, veggie-loaded tomato sauce.

Making this sauce is also guaranteed to make your house smell amazing.  Some chopped italian parsley and nutritional yeast sprinkled on top take it to another level.

Hearty tomato sauce with peppers and onions:

4c canned tomatoes(I use my own but San Marzano canned tomatoes are the best from the store)

1T olive or other oil

1/2 a large yellow onion, diced

garlic: as many cloves as you like, minced.  I use about 8-10.

1T tomato paste

1t brown sugar

1 green bell pepper, sliced into strips`

6 or so mushrooms, stems removed and chopped (I usually use crimini)

salt and pepper

Add oil to a large saucepan over med high heat; add in the onions and saute until slightly softened.  Add in tomato paste and sugar, stir to combine, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, taking care not to let anything burn.  Add the canned tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you add them.  Add the peppers, mushrooms, and garlic; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until veggies are soft, about 20 minutes.  While the sauce is simmering, make your polenta:

Basic creamy polenta:

4c water or broth

1c polenta

1t salt

Bring the liquid and salt to a boil, add polenta and bring back to a boil, whisking constantly.  Reduce to low heat (a little more than a simmer, maybe a 2 or 3 on the burner dial) and whisk constantly, cooking until polenta thickens, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and spoon into bowls.  Any leftover polenta in the pot can be poured into a baking dish, spread in an even layer, and refrigerated.  Once its cold and set, you can make polenta fries the next day.

Hope you enjoy!

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