Winter, the cold weather, and let’s be honest, the duress of Lockdown 3:0, all seem to call for warming comfort food: polenta!
This recipe does it for me. Polenta, or maize flour, is a staple food from Northern Italy. This humble Italian peasant food has become a versatile fine-dining-style comfort food. Polenta can be made into layered terrines (in its solid form) or easy creamy porridges with Parmigiano-Reggiano and butter. A sort of creamy and very tasty porridge is how this easy recipe turns out to be, one that can be adapted to different times of the year of course, although it really works as a winter dish.
For the topping:
400g Mushrooms, a mix of different varieties, to your liking
100g smoked pancetta (bacon)
Parsley, a small bunch
3 Tablespoons of a good olive oil
2 garlic cloves
100ml dry white wine
Salt and Pepper
1 lt stock (vegetable or chicken)
250g Polenta – Maize Flour (the instant type, the polenta pack you can see in the photo is generally available in our shop, if you are interested please send me a message!)
40g Parmesan cheese flakes
Optional: a little butter and a sprinkle of turmeric.
Cut the pancetta in small pieces.
Wash and dry the parsley stems and leaves and cut finely, then put aside.
Place a frying pan on a medium heat and add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the peeled and crushed garlic. Let this colour a little, then add the cubed / sliced pancetta.
When the pancetta is nice and crunchy, remove the garlic and add the sliced mushrooms.
Increase the heat and fry the mushrooms for a few minutes mixing regularly to ensure they don’t stick. Then add the wine, reduce the heat and continue cooking for about 15 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat, add some of the chopped parsley, some freshly ground pepper and check if any salt is needed, then put aside, keeping warm.
In the meantime heat the water / stock in a large pan and add a little salt. When it starts boiling, slowly sprinkle in the polenta flour, mixing constantly, preferably with a whisk, to avoid it lumping. Cook on low heat for a few minutes, as instructed on the polenta packet, and take care to avoid any splashing of the bubbling polenta as it is scorching hot!
The optional part is just at the end of cooking the polenta, and it is a bit of a “fusion” of Italian and Eastern cuisine. I tried once to add turmeric to it as an experiment and liked it so much that now I can’t cook polenta without that lovely addition of scent, subtle flavours and colour. Also, I think that mixing some butter right at the end increases the overall flavours.
Finally spoon the polenta on 4 dinner plates, add a portion of the cooked mushrooms and pancetta mix in the centre of each plate, sprinkle on the reamining parsley and scatter the parmesan flakes on the top. Serve immediately. I would suggest a nice glass of a red wine to wash it down, perhaps a Syrah, or a Nero d’Avola.
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