Creamy Butternut Squash Polenta with Fresh Parmesan

Mariel here. This was my very first stab at polenta. Like risotto, I assumed polenta required more finesse, patience and energy than I had on any given Tuesday. As it turns out, I was wrong. Polenta practically makes itself. This recipe requires the bare minimum in the effort department and it’s a delightful stand-in if you don’t have the time for my mom’s famous Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup.

Like the rest of the food world, I’ve been on a squash kick as of late (see Pumpkin Ricotta Lasagna and Pumpkin-Spiced Chicken Chili), and the butternut variety added a sweet creaminess to the pot without totally overpowering the polenta’s subtle (and versatile) flavor. In fact, I’d imagine you could even eat this for breakfast by subbing out the parmesan and adding a dash of maple syrup and a sprinkling of toasted walnuts. Polenta, if you didn’t already know, is otherwise known as corn grits. You learn something new everyday…

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Creamy Butternut Squash Polenta with Fresh Parmesan
Makes 8-10 side dish servings

Ingredients:
20-oz package of peeled & cubed butternut squash (It saves hassle and isn’t much pricier. You can find it in the produce section) – $3.99
1 large sweet onion, finely chopped – $0.99
1 ½ cups fast-cook polenta (I used Bob’s Red Mill) – $2.39
3/4 cup + ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan (parmesan reggiano is my personal favorite) – $4.50
2 cups water – stock
3 cups low-salt chicken or vegetable stock – stock
2 Tablespoons white wine – stock
1 Tablespoon olive oil – stock
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided – stock
1 Tablespoon brown sugar – stock
¼ teaspoon dried savory or sage – stock
½ teaspoon salt – stock
¼ black pepper – stock
Grand total assuming “well-stocked” kitchen: $10.88
Cost per serving: $1.09

Directions:
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the cubed butternut squash, reduce heat to medium-low and cook squash until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Drain water and transfer squash to a food processor/blender. Add 1 TBS butter and 1 TBS brown sugar. Puree until mostly lump-free. Set aside.

2. In a large, heavy skillet, cook onion in 1 TBS butter + 1 TBS olive oil over medium-high heat until very soft. Stir frequently to avoid burning. About 10 minutes. Once soft, add the sage/savory. Stir in squash and cook on low heat for another 3-4 minutes. Taste and add a little salt and pepper, if desired.

3. Meanwhile, bring water, stock, salt and pepper to boil in a large lidded saucepan. Add the polenta and whisk. Reduce heat and simmer the polenta for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until polenta becomes thick and creamy. Cover, remove from heat and let stand for a couple minutes.

4. Add the polenta to the squash/onions and stir through over very low heat for about a minute. Add 3/4 cup parmesan, stir an additional minute then remove from heat. Serve hot and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup parmesan. Enjoy!

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