Well, Phoenix finally cooled down and we are looking to warm up a bit! This is the time of year when I absolutely LOVE having a gas stove because it heats up our whole kitchen and living room and makes everything super cozy… it also minimizes how much we need to turn on our heater! One of my favorite comfort foods when it gets cold is polenta. Polenta is basically a corn meal… I like to think of it as the Italian version of grits… though I don’t know enough about grits to know if they are as versatile as polenta. I’ve had polenta fried into cakes, baked, and then one of the simplest forms, which I used for this recipe- just basic white cornmeal cooked over the stovetop with butter, milk, and cheese.
My two favorite ways to have polenta is either with homemade, slow cooked tomato sauce or else with roasted veggies. My brothers like it with sausage and roasted peppers but I don’t do meat and since my son can’t do tomatoes- roasted vegetables it was.
I’ve written before about my small obsession with roasting veggies. It’s so versatile! I seriously just used up whatever we had left in the fridge and roasted them ahead of time with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then, once the polenta was cooked on the stove, I scooped it into an oven safe dish and baked it for about 10-15 minutes until it had a firmer texture, then topped it with the pre-roasted veggies for another 10-15 minutes until the veggies had warmed through again. It made a perfect warm, filling meal for a cold day! And unlike most of my Italian recipes- this one is gluten free for all my friends with that dietary restriction 🙂 For that reason its a great dish if you have a variety of dietary restrictions! (I assume for a vegan version you could use an alternative milk like soy or almond but I haven’t tried… as well as some veggie stock instead of boiling water to give it some of the extra flavor you’d have from the cheese!)
I love this meal because it is simple and pieces of it can be prepared ahead of time. I roasted twice as many veggies as we needed for this recipe to put on top of rice or pasta later in the week. The polenta is rich and calming and comforting and my whole family left the table very happy and very full!