Ok Stop! Very Important question I have for you… do you have Polenta in your pantry?!? If the answer is no, we have a problem! Add it to your grocery list or click here to have it Amazon prime delivered to you right now. You can’t go on living a polenta-less life any longer!
I love polenta! Really, really love it! For me, it feels like eating a big bowl of cozy, comfort similar to the warmth I feel when I’m easting pasta- only polenta is Gluten Free and therefore my guilt is miraculously lifted.
This recipe for ‘Polenta with Swiss Chard and Baby Bellas’ is really so versatile! According to your taste or refrigerator’s current produce drawer status- switch up the vegetables, herbs, cheese or even add some pancetta, chorizo or bacon! Possibilities are limitless, once you get the idea- which is why I consider this to be a “Cornerstone Recipe”. Master the concept and a gateway of dinners ideas will open up for you.
What IS Polenta?
Polenta is a Northern Italian dish dating back to the 16th century made from coarsely ground yellow corn. It’s a peasant’s dish and has always been revered for its simplicity and versatility. It’s similar to southern grits, with the key difference being the type of corn from which it is made. Polenta is derived from flint corn which is indigenous to Italy, while Grits are made from dent corn, more commonly found is theeee .. you guessed it- United States!
When shopping for polenta, look for packages clearly labeled “polenta” and not its more finely ground relative by the name of “Cornmeal” Cornmeal is more useful when baking, its not going to have the traditional texture of real Italian Polenta- so it DOES matter. Oh, and stay away from instant, quick-cooking, or tubed polenta; yeah they are convenient.. but again- this dish is already so simple, there’s no need to compromise authenticity and taste for ease in this situation.
How do I make it?
Cooking polenta is pretty similar to cooking grits. Although it does require frequent stirring, the most common problem home cooks have when making is that it turned out lumpy and spatters while cooking. The easy solution is to add gradually and stir frequently- but if you really want to get all “Thats’ Amore” and go the extra mile, buy a traditional copper polenta pot which is authentic as it gets being hand crafted in Montepulciano, Italy. but if not any 4-quart pot will do the trick.
To cook basic polenta at home, bring 6 cups of water or chicken stock to a rapid boil in a medium-sized sauce pan. For extra flavor, I like to saute’ garlic and oil in the pan before adding they water. The garlic oil infuses with the cornmeal as it simmers. Once the water is boiling, slowly whisk in 1.5 cups of polenta in an even stream. Continue whisking for two minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the polenta from sticking to the bottom of the pot and lumps from forming, until super smooth and creamy, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper and any fresh herbs. Because nothing in my book is complete without cheese, add cheese of choice for additional richness.
What Can I do with this magic ground corn?
Oh, so glad you asked!
But the recipe at hand: Start with removing leafy greens from thick stems. You will want to reserve 2 or 3 to incorpate into the veggie saute’. This falls in line with old school Italian cooking, where nothing goes to waste, plus they add a peppery, earthy note and will bring a bright color to your dish! Rinse and spin in your salad spinner and let the sauteeing begin!
In large heavy bottom stainless steel skillet, brown mushrooms. Add shallots and Swiss chard stalks, cooking for a few minutes until shallots are turning translucent. Add garlic, being careful not to let burn.Quickly add a dry white wine and chicken stock to deglaze. Add rosemary and bring let simmer for 5 minutes
Add Swiss chard to pan, cover and steam until leaves are wilted. Season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Serve over polenta with freshly grated cheese and relish in the fact that you just made your Nonna (or someone’s Nonna) very proud!
Polenta with Swiss Chard and Baby Bellas
For the Polenta
- 1½ cup polenta course grind, organic
- 6 cups water or chicken stock
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- ⅓ cup Romano cheese grated
- 2 tbsp parsley leaves fresh, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 bunch Swiss Chard red or rainbow
- 8 oz Baby Bella mushrooms sliced
- 1 shallot thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup chard stalks minced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup white wine dry
- ⅓ cup chicken stock
- ½ tsp rosemary fresh, chopped
- ½ tbs salt
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ tsp black pepper
For the Polenta
- In medium sized pot, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium low heat. Add garlic and sautee for 30 seconds.
- Add water or stock and bring to boil.
- Slowly add polenta, whisking to prevent cornmeal clumping together. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thick, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
- Stir in butter, salt, pepper and Romano cheese, and parsley. Stir til melted and combined. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.
For the Veggies
- Prepare Swiss chard by tearing leaves from large middle stalk. Rinse and dry. Discard all but 2 or 3 stem stalks. Mince and set aside
- Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and saute' for 6 minutes, or until they have some golden color to them.
- Add shallots and swiss chard stalks, saute' for 2 min until shallots are just translucent
- Add garlic and rosemary, saute' for 30 seconds.
- Add wine to deglaze, scraping any brown bits from bottom of pan. Add chicken stock, swiss chard leaves. Cover and skillet to steam swiss chard. Should take about 4 minutes until the leaves are wilted.
- Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
- Ladle desired portions of polenta into shallow bowls, top with sauteed vegetables and freshly grated Romano cheese. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.