Soft Polenta with Roasted Pears and Gorgonzola
You have to hand it to the Italians. The best foods come from their culture and history. Pasta, risotto, polenta. I can live on these foods, and believe me, I do. It might surprise you to learn that in some parts of northern Italy (Veneto, Friuli and Lombardy) pasta was virtually an unknown food as recently as three generations ago and it was polenta that sustained life in those regions. I find this fascinating. I always thought they were eating pasta in Italy since the beginning of time, sort of.
Polenta is cornmeal cooked in water or broth until the grains are soft and tender and the mixture is creamy. It can be made with yellow or white cornmeal, although the yellow cornmeal is more easily accessible. Coarser yellow cornmeal is sturdy and flavourful. There is also a finer grind stone ground cornmeal that makes a beautiful creamy polenta. Polenta is very versatile and should be in every aspiring home cook’s repertoire. It can be served soft and warm with or without topping, or you can let it cool and set, cut it into shapes and then bake as a gratin, grill until golden or fry it to crisp perfection and served as crostini. I love it either way, provided it is well prepared. I have had my share of disappointing polenta dishes here and there.
Polenta is kind of a romantic food. Picture this: Traditionally it was made in a copper pot (the inside of the pot is lined with copper as well) hanging over open fire with the family gathered around. When ready, it was poured onto a wooden board and cut with a kitchen string to be served as it cooled. I had a polenta pot in my Trail’s End Kitchen (see below), now sadly demised, although admittedly, never made polenta in it over open fire.
For this recipe I combined the classic flavours of pears and gorgonzola and incorporated them into and on top of the polenta. The sweet acidity of the roasted pears offset the pungent flavours of the gorgonzola and the creaminess of the polenta. The flavours are quite intense so offer small servings, perhaps as a first course, especially to the uninitiated.
Here are the other polenta posts on my blog:
- About Polenta
- Basic Recipe: Soft Polenta with Parmesan
- Soft Polenta Primavera (Polenta with Spring Vegetables)
- Soft Goat Cheese Polenta with Mushrooms and Spinach
4 cups water
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup gorgonzola dolce
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Bring water to a boil. Add cornmeal in a slow but steady stream, whisking constantly.
Lower heat, cook on low stirring frequently for about 30 minutes until the polenta is creamy and forms a mass that pulls away from the sides of the pot.
Add the cream towards the end of the cooking.
When the polenta is cooked through add the butter and gorgonzola and stir to blend.
While the polenta is cooking cut the pear into small dice and toss with some of the lemon juice to prevent browning.
Place the pears on a foil lined baking sheet, sprinkle with sugar and butter and roast in a preheated 375℉ until the pear begins to caramelize.
To serve, pour the warm polenta into bowls, spoon a few pear pieces over and dot with a little gorgonzola.
A light, thin drizzle of honey is nice with this dish.