Polenta

Polenta is considered one of the oldest dishes in Italy, and in some areas of the country, polenta -- not pasta -- was the mainstay food.

That's Italian?

Polenta is made from yellow or white cornmeal and there are as many ways to serve it as you can imagine: fried, baked, boiled and grilled! You're sure to like polenta with broccoli and Gorgonzola.

What's positive about polenta?

There are several varieties of polenta. Some are long-cooking, some quick-cooking and you'll also find it at many grocery stores prepackaged in rounded tubes so you can simply slice it and prepare it. Keep in mind -- if you have a bit of time, say 45 minutes -- the long-cooking, Italian polenta is ground finer and produces creamier results.

We know that going meatless one day a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Starting to see the possibilities of polenta?

A few benefits of a polenta recipe for dinner? It's not a processed food, and it's a good food for people who cannot eat gluten (just be sure to read the labels of the products you buy to be certain they don't contain gluten). It's rich in vitamins A and C, is fat-free and low in calories. Depending on how you prepare polenta, this can be a hearty, healthy dish.

Polenta makes a nice alternative to pasta or potatoes. Add fresh vegetables to your preparation, and it makes a wonderful, one-dish meal perfect for a chilly night!

Polenta recipe with broccoli and Gorgonzola

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup polenta
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2/3 cup Gorgonzola cheese, broken into pieces, for garnish
  • Italian flat-leaf parsley, torn into small pieces, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Add the olive oil to a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic, broccoli and a few pinches of salt.
  2. Sauté the mixture for two minutes. Add the vegetable stock and cook the mixture for about 12 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, add the milk to a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the polenta and a few pinches of salt, and then whisk the mixture vigorously over medium-low heat for about two minutes. Thin with additional milk if needed.
  5. Serve the polenta in shallow bowls topped with the broccoli mixture and garnished with the Gorgonzola cheese and the parsley.

The Meatless Monday organization spoke with Angelo A. Alonzo, Ph.D., research scientist, Director of the Yale Heart Study, Yale School of Nursing. Read the entire interview about heart health, but check out just one of the questions and answers from the interview here:

Q: What is the connection between diet and heart disease?

A: All of the research that I've looked at urges for a balanced diet with a good distribution between fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates and protein. We also know that proteins that contain a lot of saturated fat are not good for people, while the Mediterranean diet, which is abundant in plant foods and low on red meat, is better for heart health.

Enjoy polenta on a Meatless Monday (or any other day) -- you'll love it!

More Meatless Monday recipes to try

A positive trend for 2012 and beyond
Fresh vegetable paella
Mushroom stroganoff

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