Monday, April 26, 2010

Double Feature: Penne with Five Cheeses and Rosemary Polenta

Please forgive my procrastination with this double helping of over the top deliciousness. My lovely sister Christie, (I've mentioned her before here) was in town and that usually means two things lots of good food and doughnuts. We have a tradition of making doughnuts most every time we get together. Glazed potato doughnuts this time, so good;  but that is not what I am sharing today. However, before I get to today's recipes I must provide you with this disclaimer: I don't promise to only give you super healthy recipes. Here is what I do promise: I will give you recipes to stretch your ideas about meatless or reduced meat cooking, recipes that go along with the proscriptions of the Word of Wisdom, and are so down right delicious you might forget what you are forgoing. With that said, I give you these recipe gems.

Ina Garten of the Barefoot Contessa writes stellar recipes. These two are prime examples. The pasta may sound pretenous with five cheeses, but the end result is nothing short of beautiful. The browned noodles bathed in the tomato cheese sauce is fantastic, creamy with much more dimension than your basic cheese sauced noodles. The tomato cuts some of the richness with its acidity and sweetness, and the varieties of cheese each lend their own flavor and texture to the dish.  As wonderful as the recipe is I can't leave well enough alone. My sister and I adapted the recipe to make it more of a weeknight thing instead of the so--rich-you-need-an-occasion-to-make-it sort of thing that it was. So here it is with with less butter and cream. Also feel free to switch around the cheeses a bit.

And now the polenta. Glorious. We made this up in advance and then finished it right before dinner. Cook it and then chilled to firm up so you can slice it and then crisp it in wedges. The flavor is phenomenal. I did dial back the red pepper because it slightly overwhelmed the rosemary and the cream and butter have also been cut back. Crisp and and creamy and the same time with slight chew from the cornmeal, this will over anyone. It reminded me of the polenta fries I used to love at a little pizza place in San Francisco. But, much, much better. Do yourself a favor and make these two soon.

Penne with Five Cheeses
adapted from Ina Garten
Kosher salt
1 1/3 cups milk
2/3 cup cream
1 cup crushed tomatoes in thick tomato puree
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (1 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup shredded imported Italian fontina (1 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup crumbled Italian Gorgonzola (1 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1/4 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 pound penne rigate pasta
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Bring 5 quarts of salted water to a boil in a stockpot. Combine all the ingredients except the penne and butter in a large mixing bowl. Mix well. Drop the penne into the boiling water and parboil for 4 minutes. Drain well in a colander and add to the ingredients in the mixing bowl, tossing to combine. Place pasta in a shallow baking dish (I used a large oval- go for a 9x13 if you don’t have anything else). Dot with the butter and bake until bubbly and brown on top, 20-30 minutes.
Rosemary Polenta                                                                                                                                                                      
adapted from Ina Garten
6 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups stock, preferably homemade (I used vegetable, but you could use chicken)
1 cup cream
3 cups milk
2 cups cornmeal (use a medium or coarse grind)
1/2 cup good grated Parmesan
Flour, olive oil, and butter, for frying

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary, salt, and pepper and saute for 1 minute. Add the stock, half-and-half, and milk and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly sprinkle the cornmeal into the hot milk while stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, until thickened and bubbly. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan. Pour into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch pan, smooth the top, and refrigerate until firm and cold. (Since I only made half of the recipe I used a 9 inch spring form instead.)
Cut the chilled polenta into 12 squares, as you would with brownies. Lift each one out with a spatula and cut diagonally into triangles. Dust each triangle lightly in flour. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large saute pan and cook the triangles in batches over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, turning once, until browned on the outside and heated inside. Add more butter and oil, as needed. Serve immediately.
 What is the best meatless meal you've had lately?

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