Food & Drink

Simple polenta and fresh mozzarella

Simple polenta with sauteed cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella

For the polenta:

6 cups water

Salt

1 1/2 cups polenta or evenly ground medium or coarse-ground cornmeal

1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into large chunks

Ground black pepper

For the tomatoes and mozzarella:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin

Pinch red pepper flakes

Pinch sugar

2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved

Salt and ground black pepper

6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/3 cubes (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves

Makes 4 as main course or 6 as a side dish.

Bring the water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Once boiling, add 11/2 teaspoons salt and pour the polenta into the water in a very slow stream from a measuring cup, while stirring in a circular motion with a wooden spoon. Make sure to scrape the bottom and seams of the pot well.

Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover. Vigorously stir the polenta once every 5 minutes, making sure to scrape clean the bottom and corners of the pot. Continue cooking until the polenta has lots its raw cornmeal taste and becomes soft and smooth, about 30 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan and butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the tomatoes and mozzarella: During the final 5 minutes of cooking the polenta, heat the oil, garlic, pepper flakes and sugar in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant and sizzling, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until they just begin to wilt, about 1 minute; season with salt and pepper to taste and set the skillet aside off the heat.

Spoon the polenta into individual serving bowls and top with the mozzarella. Spoon the tomato mixture with any accumulated juices over the top, and sprinkle with the basil before serving.

Nutritional information per serving (based on 4): 758 calories (40 percent from fat), 34 g total fat (15 g saturated), 70 mg cholesterol, 90 g carbohydrates, 24 g protein, 389 mg sodium, 12 g dietary fiber.

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