I’ve been inspired! I recently posted my recipe for Bucatini all’Amatriciana (pasta with tomato, bacon & hot pepper), a classic Roman dish that goes for $20 a head at some restaurants, but can be made at home for a mere $3.50 per person. Now I can’t stop thinking about easy Italian dinners that can be made on a budget!
As affordable as dry pasta is, polenta is even more wallet-friendly. You can get a bag of organic (which is usually more expensive than conventional) for $4, and each bag makes at least two meals for 4-6 people. With food prices going up, who can complain about that? And polenta takes even less time to make than pasta. Hearty, quick and cheap. How’s that for easygoing?
I like to mix greens right into my polenta, but you don’t have to. Here’s how it goes:
- Boil broth.
- While you’re waiting, defrost or chop fresh spinach (or chard or kale).
- When the broth is bubbling, add polenta and whisk constantly, being careful of the scalding hot pops. It’ll be done in a matter of minutes.
- Stir in some butter or olive oil—or maybe both!—parmesan and greens. Salt and pepper, too!
- Pour the polenta in a 1″ thick layer onto a rimmed baking sheet.
- While the polenta cools, crisp thin slices of garlic. (SPEED HINT: When I’m in a rush, I simply wipe out the pot in which I made the polenta, and re-use it to heat the oil for cooking my garlic and sausage. One pot meal, baby!)
- Remove garlic from the pan and use the flavored oil to fry up mini sausage patties.
- By the time your done cooking the sausage, your polenta should be firm enough to cut into squares.
- Plate sausage on top of polenta squares and sprinkle with parmesan.
Follow polenta package instructions for broth and polenta amounts. If the package suggests cooking polenta in water, do a straight substitution with veggie or chicken broth. You’ll need one frozen package or one head of greens per 4-6 people. The butter and/or olive oil is variable. You’re just trying to lubricate the polenta and give some extra flavor. I use about 1 Tbsp of butter and a quick drizzle of oil. I add parmesan to taste. Cook as much sausage as you’ll need to feed your family. We find that 1 lb is of sweet italian is plenty for four of us. If you can’t find sausage meat without casing, just cook up sliced link sausage.