Polenta al Forno with Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina

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Polenta al Forno with Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina

Adapted from nytimes.com/cooking

Polenta is a staple in the Argentine pantry. It’s eaten widely in all shapes and forms. We even have our soccer players starring on ads for Presto Pronta (the common brand for instant polenta in Argentina). I absolutely love polenta and I was craving it when I got back home from college. I have an account in New York Times Cooking online and I found this recipe. It seemed like it could be really good and I wasn’t disappointed.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh spinach
  • 2 cups ricotta
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
  • 1 cup medium or fine cornmeal (or polenta)
  • 6 tablespoons butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).
  2. Blanch the spinach in a large pot of boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and cool. Squeeze all the excess moisture from the spinach and roughly chop.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the chopped spinach and ricotta. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the cayenne, half the Parmesan and all but 2 tablespoons of the Fontina. Stir well. Keep refrigerated while preparing the polenta.
  5. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Pour the cornmeal or polenta slowly into the water and stir with a wooden spoon.. Continue to stir as mixture thickens for 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Turn heat to low. Cook for at least 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. If the polenta becomes quite thick, add ½ cup of water, stir well and continue cooking. Add up to 1 cup more of water as necessary to keep the polenta soft enough to stir.
  7. Remove the polenta from the heat and add 6 tablespoons of butter. Stir well.
  8. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish. Ladle in about half of the warm, soft polenta. Spread with a spatula to make a thin layer. Spoon the spinach mixture evenly over it. Top with the remaining polenta and spread to smooth the surface.
  9. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and Fontina.
  10. Bake, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes. The top should be nicely browned or a rich golden color. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Polenta al Forno with Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina, lado

Comments: I was very satisfied with how this dish turned out. I am in love with polenta and I also love the combination of spinach and ricotta, a common ravioli filling in Argentina. If you’re using instant polenta, like I did, do not follow the procedure described above for cooking it. Presto Pronta, the one I used, literally cooks in about a minute. Once cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the butter until it’s melted. You can make ahead up to step 8. If you do so, cover it and refrigerate. Bring it back to room temperature before baking. Since it was just my parents and I eating, I made half of the recipe and used a 9-inch square baking dish instead of a 9×13.

Polenta al Forno with Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina, pedazo

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