LiveMom’s Catherine had a party for her husband’s 40th birthday last weekend where we made a five-course Italian dinner for 20. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun, fueled by really good Italian wines chosen for us by Sam Hovland at East End Wines. One of the hits was a creamy polenta served with marinara sauce, sautéed spinach and mushrooms. It was easy and fast, and would make a great weeknight dinner. We used a quick-cook method for the polenta, rather than stirring it for 45 minutes like some recipes call for. We recommend the brand we used, Alpina Savoie (purchased at Central Market), because it worked so well with this method.
Creamy Polenta with Sautéed Spinach and Mushrooms
4 cups simple marinara sauce (no meat or cheese, homemade or your favorite pre-made)
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 bags pre-washed spinach
3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (button, baby portabella or crimini)
Salt, to taste
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups Alpina Savoie polenta
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper, for serving
In a medium saucepan, simmer marinara to keep warm until serving time. In a large skillet, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat and add garlic. After 30 seconds, begin adding spinach, moving it around in the pan and adding more until it is all wilted. Add a sprinkle of salt, to taste, then remove the spinach to a strainer set over a bowl to drain some of the excess water off. Wipe out the skillet and add another tablespoon of oil, then over medium-high heat, sauté mushrooms with a pinch of salt. Remove to a bowl.
In a large saucepan, combine the heavy cream, chicken stock and water. Bring to a boil. Add the salt, then slowly pour in the polenta as a steady stream, stirring while you pour. Reduce the heat to simmer and continue stirring until the polenta is smooth and has large bubbles popping on the surface (like lava!). Simmer until very thick but not stiff, about 5-7 minutes. Take off heat and stir in butter and cheese. Spoon into bowls and top with a 1/4 cup of marinara sauce, then with the sautéed veggies. Serve immediately with extra grated Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper. Makes 6-8 servings.
Written by: Shannon Oelrich