With winter approaching it is time for comfort food and polenta is the perfect solution - warm, nutritious and filling. In Italy, polenta is mostly eaten in the north. It used to be considered peasant food but in the last 10-15 years has found new popularity in the gourmet market. This maize meal is used both in savoury dishes and desserts. Here I propose a delicious savoury pasticcio, a bake of polenta with four cheeses, fresh sage and nutmeg. Without the cheese, it can be eaten as an accompaniment to main courses in the same way as rice or couscous. It is important to cook polenta with plenty of salt in the water (1 tablespoon per 500g of polenta) or in stock, otherwise it tastes bland. I suggest using pre-cooked or instant polenta, which is easy to find. Serve this dish piping hot.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
● 500g pre-cooked/instant packet of coarse Polenta (maize meal)
● Approx 2 litres water
● 1 tbsp rock salt
● Approx 80g diced Dolcelatte/Gorgonzola cheese
● Approx 80g diced Edam/mild Cheddar (or similar) cheese
● Approx 50g grated Parmesan cheese
● Approx 80g diced Fontina cheese (or similar)
● 4-5 leaves of fresh sage roughly cut
● Pinch of nutmeg
● Knob of butter
● Table salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
● Preheat the oven to 200°C.
● To cook the polenta, follow the cooking instructions on the packet as these may vary. Usually, you should bring approximately 2 litres of water to the boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt per 500g of polenta.
● Once the water boils, slowly pour in the coarse polenta and stir well with a hand whisk.
● Keep on stirring and cook for 3 minutes or according to the instructions on the packet.
● By the end you should have a smooth but slightly runny consistency.
● Tip: If the polenta is too thick, then simply add more boiling water to make it smoother.
● Once the polenta is cooked, add the four cheeses (leave a little on the side for decoration), a knob of butter, a couple of sage leaves and stir well. Pour the mixture into an oven dish of approx 25x30 cm.
● Top with the remaining cheese to garnish, together with the remaining sage and a sprinkle of nutmeg.
● Place in the oven and leave to cook for 15 minutes. Grill the top for the last 5 minutes if you want to create a golden crust.
● Serve hot.