Polenta With Gorgonzola

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polenta and gorg 2 (3) with script

Buon giorno!

Most Italians are familiar with the custom of eating polenta on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins, or for Carnevale. (Mardi Gras) However, the most well known preparation is with sauce and little meatballs or even Braciole. This is considered the Southern Italian method.

Northern Italy is also known for their polenta, using more butter and cream than the south. They often serve it with the game that is so prevalent in the woods of the North. POLENTA WITH GORGONZOLA is one such northern recipe. It hails from the Northern region of Lombardia. This is a smooth and creamy version and, even with the sharper cheese, is still a mild dish with subtle hints from the cheese. It is a wonderful dish to serve as a first course or as a side to game, poultry, sausage, or grilled meats. It is simply a beautiful preparation which polenta lovers must have in their arsenal.

Long considered peasant food, polenta is now considered a refined dish, offered in so many ways, by the most accomplished chefs and finest restaurants. These days, the instant polenta, is so good that it is no longer necessary to stir for hours with the “paiolo” – a long handled Italian paddle like tool. I remember, as a child, engaging in the long stirring process by standing on a chair taking my turn at the “paiolo”.

Fast forward to today, I have paired this cheesy polenta with mushrooms, sauteed quickly with butter, vinegar, and a touch of sugar, a kind of quick and easy agrodolce. The idea here is to add a touch of acidity and sweetness to counter the butter and cheese. This coupling results in excellent balance.


Serves: 4

Prep: about 30 minutes


8 oz. Sliced Mushrooms – Wild or Button

2 Tbsp. Butter

1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

Pinch Sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Package Instant Polenta (approx.9.2 oz.)

4 oz. Gorgonzola Dolce chopped – very mild and creamy (If you like sharper flavor, try Gorgonzola Mountain or a good Blue Cheese)

3 Tbsp. Butter

3/4 C. Heavy Cream, warmed

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped Fresh Basil for garnish

Extra crumbled Gorgonzola for garnish (important to accent the flavor)


Saute the mushrooms in the butter, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper until caramelized and tender. Set aside.

Polenta and gorganzola 1

Make your polenta just before serving for best results.

Prepare the polenta according to package directions. Remove from heat.

When polenta is ready and piping hot, stir in the gorgonzola and butter until melted in.

Polenta and gorganzola 2

Then add the warmed cream and stir in quickly until incorporated. It should be very creamy.

Place in bowls and top with a few mushrooms on each serving.

Garnish with chopped basil and crumbled gorgonzola.

POLENTA WITH GORGONZOLA is best paired, in my view, with a light red wine like a Barbera or Valpolicella – both from the North of Italy where this polenta dish is traditionally served.


Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.




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Serving Polenta

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Polenta Gets its Groove On

Buon giorno!

So I left you with your Polenta stretched lazily out on a board, platter, or pan – waiting patiently to be dressed and ready for the party. It’s kind of like having everything on but your earrings. “Whatever shall I do?”- pined Scarlett. What next? It is in Serving Polenta that the dish comes to life!


No one I know just eats Polenta. You kind of need to dress it up a little. It is the stage  – not the performance. However, it is such a key menu item so as to totally transform any dish that includes it. By virtue of its existence on the plate, it takes any stew, sauce, meat or fish recipe to a new level. Besides that, it simply tastes great with anything you decide to serve with it. Even Broccoli Rabe or a simple fried egg shine a little brighter when paired with Polenta. All that and you can make it a day ahead if you like, and also its one of the easiest things to make. One of my readers, Grace, who resides in Denmark, loves to prepare her Polenta, porridge-style, with chicken bouillon, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese and a drizzle of Truffle Oil and snipped chives. I can think of nothing better – heavenly – so simple, yet such a perfect combination of flavors.

Of course, the traditional serving method in the South of Italy is the Polenta with Sauce and Meatballs!

Traditional Polenta with sauce and meatballs  with script

My “Nawthern” Italian friend, Tony, tells a story about the “Triestini” (as he calls them) members of his family up near the northern border in Italy, making their Polenta in the very traditional copper pot. At the end of the process, a solid crust is left inside the pot that they call a “helmet”. The children run around the house after the cooking is finished wearing this “helmet” on their heads. The last time he visited them, they prepared their Polenta with rabbit. Tony, misunderstanding the dialect for a moment, thought the ragu contained buckshot. After many hands flying and gesturing, and finally taking to the kitchen, Tony figured out they were referring to Juniper Berries! I so love this story!

One of the most interesting and unique ways to serve Polenta, in a dome shape, is offered by the “godmother” of Italian cooking and someone I think of as a mentor, the great Marcella Hazan. She instructs: when your Polenta has just finished cooking, wet a large bowl or individual ramekins for individual servings with some cold water and swirl it around. Then pour in your polenta.


Smooth the top and put it aside for 10 or 15 minutes and then voila! Just invert it onto your serving plate or individual plates.


But wait! It gets better! Take a spoon and gently scoop out a well in the top of your dome.


You get it now don’t you? Serving Polenta this way makes the perfect little nest for your stew, sauce or whatever. It also lasts for days in the refrigerator.


Hold on—get ready to see later in this post how we’ll fill this thing.

Let’s make a very simple and rustic dish with sausage and wild mushrooms and maybe a little Madeira for a touch of sweet drama. This promises to be a delicious little something that is easy and quick to make.  You can substitute slices of beef – preferably tenderloin – for the sausage if you like.  Prepare it the same way as for the sausage only leave your beef a little on the medium rare side. It can be a dinner, lunch, or a GREAT brunch dish – definitely provocative served in the dome shape but just as lovely served on squares of Polenta that are fried or grilled.


(Sausage and Mushrooms)

Serves about 4

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 –1 1/2 lb. Sausage pieces removed from casings ( mixture of mild and hot)

6-8 oz  Wild mushrooms – mixed (or Creminis or Baby Bellas) and sliced

1/2 Large onion

1 Clove Garlic – chopped finely

1/2 c. Madeira or Sherry

1 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary

1/2 c. Golden raisins (Soaked first in a cup of boiling water to plump for about 1/2 hour)

1 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Parsley


Saute the sausage until just browned. Remove the sausage from the pan and reserve.


To the same pan, add the onion and garlic – Saute until tender.


Add the wild mushrooms and cook stirring about 3-4 minutes.


Add the sausage back to the pan & add the Madeira or Sherry.


Add in the Rosemary and cook down until the sauce reduces a little.

Then add the raisins. Mix together and cook for just a couple of minutes to heat through.


When finished add the chopped fresh parsley.

That’s it! Easy enough?

OK! Let’s change things slightly. So let’s say you made your Polenta yesterday. It has set in the pan and you are scratching your head wondering what to do with it.

Take out your pan and cut the Polenta into squares. Now you have a choice: 1. You can heat the squares and serve;  2. You can fry them;  3.You can grill them.





Last, but with more than a little drama, we have the DOME with the Sausage and Mushrooms. Troppo Bella!


Now you have to admit – this was NOT difficult.  There are not too many ingredients to juggle. You can make your Polenta a day ahead if you like. You can also make the Sausage and Wild Mushroom dish, Salsiccia e Funghi a few hours ahead as well. So plan your Carnevale party or any party or brunch and dazzle your family and friends by Serving Polenta!




Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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POLENTA–It’s so corny

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Buon giorno!

Since the annual pandemonium and pageantry of Carnevale has begun in Venice, Viareggio, Rio, Portugal, and… my house, I thought it might be fitting to chat about the food most representative of this celebration in Italy – Polenta. Because there is so much to say about Polenta – where it came from, how to prepare it, how to serve it, I will discuss it in two posts beginning today with its origins, use, and preparation. This post will be followed later in the week with some great ways to serve it. So don your mask and costume and yank last year’s parade float out of the garage and  – Andiamo!

What is Polenta anyway? Polenta, a simple cornmeal mush, dates back centuries. Those Nawthern Italians insist on laying claim to it, but you’ll find it in many of the other regions in Italy – though not quite as much in Tuscany. Its origins actually date back to the ancient Romans making theirs as a kind of porridge-like mush which was called pulmentum. When corn came on the scene in the 1600’s, Polenta became more like what we are used to seeing now. It is likened in consistency and appearance to the grits of the American South.


The source ingredient of Polenta can be found as several different types of flour or cornmeal throughout Italy.  The most common polenta flour is Bramata Fioretto which is very fine and makes a softer polenta. In Venice, the home of Carnevale, cooks most often use polenta bianca or white cornmeal. Along the Piedmont, you will sometimes even find it made with potatoes.  Some areas of Italy use buckwheat or chestnut flour. [Read more…]

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