I had a yearning for polenta tonight.

I was looking through an old copy of La Cucina Italiana and saw a polenta with a fairly complex ragu on top.  It was really more than I wanted to do, but I liked the concept and thought a streamlined version with a petit filet would fill the bill quite nicely!

Polenta – or one of its many cornmeal forms – is one of those things that is always in the cabinet.  My favorite brand is Golden Pheasant, but I haven’t seen it locally…  I had a bag of white corn grits from Mike and Barbara down in South Carolina that I used sparingly until I used it all up, and a really good really coarse organic version that I picked up at Wegmans a while back.  Tonight was your basic Indian Head Stoneground Cornmeal.  It’s finer than I usually like, but it works.

Tonight I made a soft polenta – a 4:1 ratio of nonfat milk to the cornmeal.  I almost always make my polenta with milk and have been known to stir in any and all types of cheese into the cooked mixture.  Tonight was just a bit of Locatelli.

The polenta topping is the star of tonight’s dinner, though.  The original recipe called for a quarter-pound each of beef, veal. pork, pancetta, plus a ton of other ingredients – just for a tablespoon or two on top of a side dish.  Maybe for a weekend dinner or a special occasion, but this is Wednesday.  Simplify!

Perfect Polenta

  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1/2 cup polenta
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup cheese of your choice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Bring milk to a boil.  Add polenta slowly, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and continue cooking as per package instructions.  Stir in garlic and cheese.

The Topping

  • 4 oz pancetta, diced
  • 2 portobello mushroom caps, finely diced
  • 2 celery ribs, finely diced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves Garik, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Brown pancetta in a drizzle of olive oil.  Add celery and onion and cook until wilted.  Add garlic and mushroons and cook until mixture is dry.  Add wine and continue cooking until dry.  Check for seasoning.

Plate polenta and serve The Topping on top.

The steak was a petit filet (from the whole tenderloins I bought a while back!) that I simply pan-seared and finished in the oven.

The carrots were steamed and then drizzled with butter, garlic, salt and pepper.

Dinner took less than 45 minutes from start to finish and I got my polenta fix!

What I’m really in the mood for, now, is pumpkin, though.  In any way, shape, or form!


So far, we’ve had pumpkin pie and pumpkin soup – both made with fresh pumpkin (although the soup did get a can of organic pumpkin puree added to it).  I picked up the Fairytale Pumpkin today and could probably get 8 pies out of it – and – a gallon or two of soup. Or a chunky pumpkin stew, or… or… or…

Last year I thought I was overdoing it just a bit – it seemed like every other day I was making a pumpkin-something.  Pumpkin Polenta, Pumpkin Cake, Pumpkin Gnocci… (What can I say?!?  I like pumpkin!) but I’m trying to be a bit more balanced this year.

Well… at least I was until I espied that guy up there!

The nice thing about a Fairytale Pumpkin, if you can find one around you, is that they have a  really nice sweet, buttery, taste – without adding anything to them, at all.  The first one I did today, all I did was slice it, put some huge wedges in a roasting pan with a bit of water, cover with foil and bake at 350° for about 45 minutes.  It came out perfect!

So now, I’m back where I started – fixating on pumpkin!

I think I can hold off until Sunday.