My First Time Cooking Polenta
Since I’ve committed more to eating a plant based diet, I’ve been looking for different bases for my meals instead of always turning to rice or pasta. I decided to try to make creamy polenta with roasted brussels sprouts. Ultimately, the dish turned out well, but polenta was a bit more difficult to cook than I anticipated.
What is Polenta?
Polenta is Italian style cornmeal dish. Since corn began to be cultivated in Europe in the 16th century, polenta has been traditionally made with coarsely ground cornmeal. They’re basically Italian grits that can be made into a creamy dish or sliced and baked or sautéed.
You can purchase polenta in a few different forms, from traditional polenta, to instant styles, to prepared and fully cooked polenta. The latter — the fully prepared polenta — is probably the most recognizable form; it comes in a tube, typically in the produce department of grocery stores.
Unfortunately, I didn’t come across this Kitchn article about polenta before I bought the prepared polenta from the produce section. If you’re going to make creamy polenta, it’s best to go with a traditional, dry polenta, as opposed to the tube form. The tube polenta is best for frying, sautéing, grilling, or baking.
Polenta with Roasted Brussels Sprouts
When I set out to make my polenta with roasted brussels sprouts, I started with the sprouts. I assumed that the brussels sprouts would take longer to cook than the polenta.
Roasting Brussels Sprouts
Roasting vegetables is one of my favorite ways to prepare dinners and meal prep. Roasting is a simple, forgiving cooking method, and it can be personalized with whatever seasonings you prefer. If you like softer vegetables, simply cook them for a little longer; for crunchier vegetables, decrease cooking time a bit.
I found my 4 cup glass Pyrex measuring cup to be pretty useful for tossing the sprouts in the oil and seasoning.
Brussels sprouts can be difficult because they tend to shed layers as you cut them. I tried my best to keep the little sprouts all together, but some leaves fell off. These simply become crunchier, adding some dimension to the vegetables!
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- 20-30 roughly chopped brussels sprouts
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2-4 cloves of garlic
- salt, pepper, and paprika to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- To prepare the brussels sprouts to roast, Wash the sprouts and roughly chopped them. Be careful to remove the bases and tried to chop them relatively evenly.
- Next, chop up some fresh garlic.
- Then, simply tossed them in olive oil, with fresh diced garlic, salt, pepper, and paprika.
- Spread the brussels sprouts on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until they're tender.
Preparing the Creamy Polenta
Making the creamy polenta wasn’t quite as straight forward as preparing the roasted brussels sprouts. Next time, I would definitely get dried polena/cornmeal to make the dish instead, and save the tube of polenta for slicing and baking. Either way, you can make creamy polenta with a prepared tube, just expect it to take a bit more time.
Creamy Cheesy Polenta
- 1 tube prepared polenta
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1/4 small white onion
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup shredded cheese (such as mozzerella)
- Dice and saute the white onion in olive oil on medium heat.
- While the onion sautees, open the polenta and dice it up into small pieces or slices.
- Add the broth to the pan and begin to incorporate the polenta.
- Add a few pieces of polenta at a time and stir it into the broth with a wooden spoon or whisk. Try to break up the polenta pieces with the utensil of your choice.
- As the polenta breaks up, add the remainder of the tube and incorporate it into the broth.
- Add shredded cheese of your choice — mozzerella worked well for me — and mix it all together.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serving the Polenta with Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Originally, I had planned to make the polenta as the main dish and serve the brussels sprouts as a side. At the last second, though, I decided to simply mix the two together.
I served the dish with some breaded cod, but you could skip the protein entirely or go with something plant based.
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