Comfort of home can come from a simple meal.
Polenta “Pizza” with Crumbled Sage
This is one of those serendipitous, stumbled-upon creations. I had made a big pot of polenta, and I poured the leftovers into a baking dish in a thin layer. The next day, foraging in the fridge for lunch, I came upon the polenta, a little fresh mozzarella, a little Parmesan (or was it Pecorino?). To make a pizza of sorts, I layered on the cheeses, added a splash of oil, crumbled over a handful of dried sage leaves, and put it into a hot oven. The result was completely satisfying. So what if it’s not truly a pizza?—though perhaps it has a culinary ancestor somewhere, since there’s really nothing new under the sun.
1 cup stone-ground polenta
½ pound fresh mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Leaves from 1 bunch dried fresh sage (see Note)
Red pepper flakes
1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large heavy saucepan and add 2 teaspoons salt. Whisk in the polenta and continue whisking as it begins to bubble. After a minute or two, when the polenta has thickened a bit, reduce the heat to low and let cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, until thickened and smooth, with no raw cornmeal taste. If the polenta gets too thick as it cooks, add a bit more water. Remove a spoonful and cool, then taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
2. Spread the polenta on a lightly oiled baking dish to a thickness of ½ inch. Let cool and set, preferably overnight, in the refrigerator.
3. Heat the oven to 400°F, with a rack in the top third. Tear the mozzarella into big shreds and scatter over the polenta. Top with the Parmesan. Drizzle lightly with oil and crumble the sage leaves on top.
4. Bake the polenta until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper to taste and let cool slightly.
5. Serve cut into rough wedges or squares.
Note: You can dry a bunch of fresh sage by leaving it on a windowsill for a day or two. Freshly dried sage is quite flavorful, but if you don’t get around to this, don’t substitute sage from a jar—use a little chopped rosemary instead.
“Excerpted from One Good Dish by David Tanis (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Gentl & Hyers."