Butternut squash gives this polenta a lovely pumpkin color and caramelized onions add a savory sweetness. Pour the polenta into a wide bowl rather than a tall narrow bowl; that way, the dome will firm and brown better in the oven and will slice neatly at the table. Then get out your best platter! Surrounded by our Roasted Autumn Vegetables, this is a big centerpiece of a dish—our tribute to the architecture of Italy. For an added touch, sprinkle the finished dome with a little shredded mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, aged provolone, or extra-sharp Cheddar.

 

 

Polenta Dome
Recipe type: Main Dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil baking time: 30 minutes
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 medium-small butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage (1 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a covered pot, bring the water or stock and 1 teaspoon of the salt to a boil.
  2. Generously oil a 2-quart or larger bowl.
  3. While the water heats, warm the olive oil in a heavy skillet on medium heat.
  4. Cook the onions, garlic, and ½ teaspoon of the salt for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are caramelized.
  5. When the water boils, gradually pour in the cornmeal while stirring vigorously.
  6. Reduce the heat until the thickening cornmeal simmers gently.
  7. Cook, stirring frequently, until the polenta is thick and tastes done.
  8. Meanwhile, peel and seed the squash.
  9. Use a food processor or hand grater to shred it to yield 2 cups of grated squash.
  10. Stir the squash, sage, fennel, and pepper into the sautéing onions and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
  11. If the vegetables begin to stick, add a tiny bit of water.
  12. Cover and remove from the heat.
  13. When the polenta is ready, stir in the sautéed vegetables.
  14. Add the cheese, if using.
  15. Pour the polenta into the prepared bowl and set it aside to cool for at least 30 minutes, until set.
  16. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  17. About ½ hour before serving, turn the cooled polenta dome onto an ovenproof platter or a large baking pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until hot.
Notes

For a dome, the aim is a firm but pourable polenta. Finely ground cornmeal will cook in just a few minutes. Most medium-grind, fairly dark yellow cornmeals will take about 20 minutes to cook. Stone-ground and very coarse cornmeals can take up to 45 minutes. All of the varieties will probably need additions of water during cooking.

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