Holiday cooking is an enduring way to pass on family recipes that keep traditions alive. If polenta is not already a tradition in your family, why not consider making it one this holiday by turning over the preparation of these special recipes to your younger cooks? Polenta pie shared with family and friends around the holiday table might just be that special recipe to celebrate with.
The four recipes that follow are used to make two pies: Polenta Pie with Sausage and Cheese and, for vegetarians, Three-Cheese Polenta Pie. Teen chefs and your family kitchen team will be proud to serve them this holiday season or anytime they want to show off a little. What chef wouldn’t want to mess around with this much-to-love mush?
Ground corn in the form of polenta has been a staple in northern Italian cooking for centuries, and its origins go back to the Romans. Their armies, sustained by versions of polenta, conquered much of the world. Polenta remains so popular today that well-equipped Italian kitchens have a copper pot used exclusively for cooking it. Polenta, once considered peasant food even more humble than bread, is hugely popular today. And for good reason. Polenta recipes can range from plain to extravagant. Why not open your kitchen door to polenta possibilities?
I grew up Sicilian-American and we ate pasta, not polenta, in our house. So I’ve made it my mission to make up for all those years I missed out. The most delicious polenta I ever ate was in Verona. It had a texture so velvety and delicately smooth that I can still remember it and would love to have in front of me right now! I imagine that dish required a slow, constant stirring while it cooked an hour or more in a copper pot. I don’t want to discourage anyone from preparing a slow-cooked version, but it really is all right to go instant for these recipes for polenta pie.
If you’re not making a pie, you have a wide variety of options with polenta. It can be swirled piping hot with melted butter, and topped with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Or cut firm polenta into slices or cubes to co-star deliciously with sautéed vegetables, seafood, or meats. Pan juices or sauces absorbed into the polenta provide the bonus of added layers of flavor. Or try grilled or fried slices of polenta instead of bread for burgers, or ham-and-cheese-and-egg breakfast sandwiches. The list goes on and on.
The Instant Polenta recipe below is used for both pies and is as easy as boiling water. You can use the simple Tomato Sauce recipe included if you choose to make your own from scratch. Or you can simply use an excellent bottled pasta sauce.
Plan ahead, as both recipes require time to prepare. With both pie recipes it’s important that you follow the cooling times before you serve them. The finished pies will hold their heat for quite a long time, so you don’t need to be concerned about them getting cold.
Both polenta pies can be that special holiday tradition that everyone will love. With its creamy, delicate corn taste, simplicity, versatility, and enticing possibilities, only one word describes polenta: Perfect.
It’s pie time!
First published December 2014