Polenta with Autumn Squash & Pancetta
A few ounces of chopped pancetta offer the satisfaction that carnivores crave and enough fat to make the colorful array of vegetables in this recipe come alive. Make sure to use traditional, not instant, polenta.
- 7 cups water
- Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely ground cornmeal
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small autumn squash (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded and shaved
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 4 ounces pancetta, diced
- 3 scallions, white parts only, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
Cooking time 60mins
Adapted from online.wsj.com
Bring 7 cups salted water to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan over high heat. Gradually whisk cornmeal into boiling water. Let return to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until very thick and shiny, about 40 minutes. Monitor pot so mixture doesn’t boil over, decreasing heat if necessary. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary. Season with pepper and then stir in butter, thyme and half of Parmesan. Taste and add salt if necessary.
Preheat broiler and set rack about 7 inches below flame. Grease an 18x13-inch shallow roasting pan with 1 tablespoon oil. Spread hot polenta out into pan. Let cool 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, toss squash, red peppers and scallions with salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons oil. Set aside.
Top cooled polenta with pancetta. Place pan under broiler and cook until pancetta starts to crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from broiler and evenly distribute squash-red pepper mixture over polenta. Return pan to broiler and cook until vegetables are tender and start to brown, 5-6 minutes more. (The squash will brown the quickest because it has so much sugar in it, but a little char on the edges adds texture and flavor.)
Remove polenta from broiler and top with remaining cheese, mint and basil. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and remaining oil. Serve warm with a green salad.
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