Make this dish even more kid-friendly by using a cookie cutter to create fun shapes from firm polenta. Crisp the polenta in the oven, serve with an easy, cheesy sauce, and dinner is ready! If you're super-short on time, you can substitute rounds of sliced store-bought polenta for the homemade stuff.
Regan Burns Cafiso
|1 1/2 cups fine polenta (not instant)||2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, for the cheesy spinach sauce|
|5 cups water, for the polenta||1 cup milk, warmed, for the cheesy spinach sauce|
|1 cup milk, for the polenta||1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, for the cheesy spinach sauce|
|1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, for the polenta||1 cup grated Monterey jack cheese, for the cheesy spinach sauce|
|Extra-virgin olive oil, for the polenta||2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for the cheesy spinach sauce|
|2 tablespoons butter, for the cheesy spinach sauce||1 cup bagged frozen chopped spinach, for the cheesy spinach sauce|
To make the polenta: Lightly oil a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with olive oil. Heat water, milk and salt over medium-high heat. When it simmers, add the polenta in a thin, steady stream while whisking constantly. Cook, stirring constantly, until polenta comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring often, until polenta is thick and spoonable. Transfer to prepared baking dish and smooth top. Cool and refrigerate one hour. Unmold polenta and cut into sticks or shapes.
To make the spinach sauce: Melt butter over medium heat; whisk in flour until smooth and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk and salt; bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in cheese, then stir in spinach. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat.
Heat oven to 475 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush lightly with olive oil. Place polenta shapes on baking sheet and brush tops with olive oil. Bake 10 minutes, turn pieces over, and continue baking until polenta is golden and heated through, about 15 minutes more. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt. Serve polenta with cheesy spinach sauce.
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