Ciao'd while catching up with Terry Gross AKA listening to NPR's Fresh Air.
While I can eat this dish on its own - milk softens the polenta, Parmesan cheese enriches it, and black pepper spikes it - it is also a lovely complement to a host of flavors. Serve it alongside stews, roast chicken, or sausage. For a vegetarian option, pair the polenta with braised greens, sauteed mushrooms, or tomato sauce. In the spirit of saving time, I opted for quick-cooking polenta.
Serve 4 to 6
6 cups water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups quick-cooking yellow cornmeal, preferably Italian
1/2 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, plus more to taste
In a large, heavy saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Add the salt, then gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, 3 to 5 minutes, depending upon package directions. Stir in the milk, butter, Parmesan cheese, and black pepper. Cook 3 minutes more. Adjust for salt and more black pepper, if you like. Serve with additional Parmesan for the table.
This is a "loose" polenta. If you would like it firmer, let rest about 5 minutes before serving.