Let me transport you back to my childhood days of sitting in my nana's kitchen and watching her cook. I loved watching her delicately dip eggplant into egg and breadcrumbs and fry them in fruity olive oil. I remember every once in a while she would bake a date nut bread or make a batch of my favorite ricotta balls. Something else she used to make, that I haven't had in years, is polenta. Inexpensive, filling and comforting, polenta is a mainstay for most Italians, especially those like my nana, who grew up in poverty. She prepared it simply by microwaving it and topping it with homemade marinara sauce and grated Parmesan cheese. I don't think I ever liked it or appreciated it much in the past, but I found myself craving a bowl today. So, with a rubber spatula and a batch of my perfect marinara sauce on hand, I got to work.
Creamy polenta with white beans, marinara and mushrooms
- 1/4 cup polenta
- 1/2 cup each water and non-dairy milk
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup white beans
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1/2 cup marinara sauce
- 1/3 cup crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
- S&P, to taste
- To prepare polenta: Bring water, non-dairy milk and salt to a boil. Slowly add in polenta, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula. Bring to a simmer and continue stirring constantly (or at least every few minutes) for 20 minutes. During the last few minutes of cooking, fold in white beans, nutritional yeast, and parsley. When it's done, it should have the consistency of thick mashed potatoes. Season to taste.
- Saute mushrooms in a medium pan until they begin to soften. Add marinara sauce (homemade or jarred will do) on medium heat until warmed through. Top polenta with sauce and mushrooms and serve immediately.
Serves 1 hungry and nostalgic girl
I had just enough time to snap a few pictures and dive in before the polenta turned to wallpaper paste. When I say serve immediately, I mean it; polenta is moody and goes from being creamy and delicious to cold and congealed fairly quickly.
This is a very simple, no frills dish that sent me right back into my nana's kitchen; each bite made those memories come to life. It's hearty, stick-to-your-ribs, perfect for crisp fall weather and is full of love (and some elbow grease from stirring for 20 minutes).
There is nothing appealing about this picture, but my nana always stirred the marinara into hers, so I did the same. And you know what? It tasted ten times better.