I adore polenta. Growing up it was a family affair with a dash of ceremony whenever it was cooked. The dramatics of the importance of the stirring were not lost on me; extra long wooden spoons, headbands and tapping in and out various family members so that arms could rest and recover for their next turn. Granted, polenta was cooked for the masses in our house, so you are talking about a giant pot that would have contained enough to feed 20 - 30 people. Which means, if you were stirring it, you would definitely be activating your biceps and laterus dorsi, so basically you are legitimately getting an upper-body workout.
But fear not, this recipe is for 4 so you can put away your gym gear. Plus, with the passing of time, we have been gifted something called instant polenta. I'm not talking about the stuff that comes in a tube. We all make our own choices in life, but I can't say that I approve of that one. I really don't want to eat something in a plastic tube. But I am a huge fan of Colavita Instant Polenta. Seriously 5 minutes! It's life changing if you want polenta without acting out a scene from Gone With The Wind. One of the things I have noticed about the instant polenta though is that it, of course does not have the same creaminess or depth of flavor as its "nothing comes easy, stir me for 45 minutes" counterpart. So where traditionally, polenta is cooked with water, I, in this situation, opt for chicken broth. It adds a savory depth of flavor that is subtle but melds so well with the sweet roasted tomatoes. If your vegan, try vegetable stock because I do feel that unless you are topping this type of polenta with a super savory sauce (which we are not), that instant needs a little more love!
If you want to go old school and prepare this with traditional cooking polenta. Don't let me scare you off. Such a small amount is not that much of an effort to cook and while it is important to stir often, the most critical part of cooking polenta is when you pour your grains into the boiling water. This must be done slowly and controlled with one hand while the other hand stirs with a whisk and disperses those little babies up. Clumps in your polenta is a crime.
What Do I Need?
1 Cup of Polenta
4 Cups of Chicken Stock
1 T Butter
1 Cup Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (fresh grated if you can, it makes a giant difference)
1 Basket of grape tomatoes (10 ounces)
Salt & Pepper
Pre-heat your oven to 350, wash and allow your tomatoes to dry, place them on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil (don't be shy) add salt and pepper to taste, gently toss to coat your tomatoes and place in the oven for 20 - 30 minutes or until roasted and blistered.
While your tomatoes are cooking, grate your 1 cup of parmigiano and set aside. Now bring 4 cups of broth to a boil in a medium pot. When boiling, slowly pour in your polenta with one hand while whisking with the other to prevent clumps. Once all your polenta is in, you can drop your heat a bit and switch to a wooden spoon, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes your polenta should be done, you can tell it has completed cooking when it pulls off the sides of the pot as you are stirring. At this point, add your tablespoon of butter and your cup of cheese (reserve a bit to sprinkle on top) and some salt to taste. Stir well and remove from heat.
Plate your polenta. It should be creamy and soft in texture. Remove your tomatoes from the oven and place on top of your polenta, grab some of that oil and drizzle on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, add pepper if you wish and serve.
HOT TIP: I like to smush my tomatoes with a fork before eating, it explodes their glorious tomato goodness on the polenta in the most delicious way.
TAKE NOTE: Polenta is super versatile! Mix and match any roasted or sautéed veggies on top of this filling and fabulous pasta alternative.