Polenta!?! You may be asking what is that? It’s a delicious dish a friend introduced me to several years ago. Ok, ok, so Polenta technically is not a soup, BUT it is one of those dishes like soup that I crave when the weather turns cold.
The best part is that it takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish to prepare! So on Sunday afternoons or days I have very little time, this is the perfect meal for my family.
It’s also perfect to make when inviting larger groups over…again easy to make and it’s hearty!
You can make a rustic version like porridge, which is actually my preferred method, or make it all fancy by putting it into a fun mold and letting it cool for 10-15 minutes after cooking. Some people even enjoy letting it cool then cutting it up and frying it later. I’ve never tried the last version simply because it takes more time. There are some dishes I rely on for their ease and speed and this is one of them.
This simple Italian dish is made out of coarsely ground cornmeal or what we in the south call “corn grits.” This is very important. When you are purchasing your ingredients from the store, make sure you buy a package that says either “Polenta” or “Corn Grits.” Cornmeal will not taste the same…I know.
I accidentally used cornmeal one time and couldn’t finish eating it because the texture was too horrible… and texture usually doesn’t bother me like it does my poor husband who didn’t say a word but ate it all! LOL!! Poor guy, he has had to try some really interesting meals over the years and has never complained. Although he will let me know, I don’t have to cook it again unless I really want to! I’d say that’s a polite way of saying he didn’t like it, wouldn’t you? Oh, I love him….ok but back to the ingredients.
- 6 cups water
- 2 cups Corn Grits (sometimes the bag might say Polenta) – Do not use cornmeal.
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 3 tablespoons of coconut oil (or butter, but coconut oil gives it such a better flavor)
- 1/2 cup minimum of shredded Parmesan or other cheese that melts well like Monterey Jack (Options for using cheese: add it into the Polenta while cooking, add it as a topping after plating, or both. I usually do both!)
- Your favorite pasta sauce
- Chicken sausage – Optional but a must have in my house. We really like using the spinach chicken sausage.
I’ve mentioned how easy this is right? The first few times I made it, I did not think it so easy because the directions I used said to stir the polenta continuously for 30 minutes! My arm was tired and I had little kids (still do) and stirring anything constantly for 30 minutes didn’t work out well.
What I later realized is that unless I wanted to mold the polenta into something pretty, I didn’t need to stir it for that long. I’ve found that between 4-6 minutes of cooking and stirring yields the perfect consistency for porridge style polenta and my family devours it just the same. So save the time and be done with the cooking part in 6ish minutes!
So where to start….
Step 1 – If you need to shred the cheese do it before getting started. Believe me the rest of this is going to go really quickly and if you want to cook the cheese in with the polenta you will not have time to shred it later.
Step 2 – Put 6 cups of water with the 1 teaspoon of salt in a covered pot and bring it to a boil.
Step 3 – While waiting for the water to boil, cut the sausage however you like. I cut them into small cubes by cutting the sausage into fourths and then cutting them like I’m cutting them into wheels.
Step 4 – Put the pasta sauce and the sausage into a medium sized sauce pan and cook it on medium heat and then lower once it starts bubbling.
Step 5 – The water should be boiling now. Stir in the corn grits and immediately turn the heat down to low. You have to stir the grits constantly for the next 4-6 minutes or they start bubbling and spitting and may burn.
Step 6 – Once the grits are in, add in the coconut oil and the cheese, if you so choose. Continue stirring till the timer dings.
Step 7 – Now, you are ready to plate. I typically put the polenta on the plate first, then add the pasta sauce and sausage, and top it with more cheese.
Step 8 – Enjoy great conversation around a hearty meal!