Polenta with Spinach, Onion, and Garlic

hot sauce spiral 2.jpgWhat's the difference between polenta and cornmeal?  Nothing.  Polenta is boiled cornmeal.  You can make polenta using a fine, medium, or course grind of cornmeal which will determine how long it takes to cook.  The coarsely ground polenta will take at least 45 minutes to cook, sometimes longer.  I personally prefer a medium to fine grind because it's silkier but a lot of my friends and family prefer the coarser grinds for the grainier texture.

This is a versatile dish.  It goes well with almost anything.  I make my polenta different almost every time using what I have on hand as my inspiration.  When it's first cooked it's soft and porridge-like, perfect for spooning into a bowl with a heap of sauteed greens and garlic, but when it cools it firms up so I always pour it out onto a baking sheet, smooth it, and when it's cooled I cut it into squares or use a biscuit cutter to cut it into circles and store it in the fridge for frying up later.

This particular batch made one dinner and several breakfasts.

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Polenta with Spinach, Onion, and Garlic


1 1/2 cups polenta
6 cups of water
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
30 grinds fresh pepper

1 lb spinach, washed and chopped
1 onion, diced
2 tbsp olive oil

To prepare leftovers for breakfast:
2 pieces of cut polenta
2 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
Sriracha hot sauce

two slices of jack cheese


In a large sauce pan bring the water to a boil.  As soon as it boils turn it down to low heat and whisk the polenta into it, this is important because the whisking keeps the polenta from making lumps in the water.  Whisk really well to incorporate.  Press the garlic into the polenta, stir well, and then put the lid on the pot and let it cook.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan on med-high heat.  Add the onion and saute until translucent, then add the spinach and toss until well wilted, turn the heat down a little and put the lid on the pan to encourage steaming and stir every couple of minutes until the spinach is tender.

Stir the onion and spinach into the polenta, add the salt and pepper and stir well.  It is ready to spoon into bowls now unless you are using the coarse grind of cornmeal.

For the coarse grind you will need to let it continue to cook.  Total cooking time for coarse grind should be a minimum of 45 minutes, though some people swear it takes no less than an hour and a half (Italians do, anyway).  To check for done-ness taste a small cooled spoonful, if it's done it will not be gritty.

To prepare leftovers for breakfast:

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan.  When hot, place two slices of polenta (pictured above are rounds I cut with a biscuit cutter) into the pan and crack two eggs next to (not on) the polenta.  The polenta is done when it is heated through and slightly browned.  The eggs are done when you say they are done.  Sprinkle the eggs with some salt and pepper.

If you like cheese you can stack a piece of polenta and and egg with a slice of cheese between them.

I highly recommend eating this with Sriracha hot sauce.

Recipe notes:  To make the breakfast vegan you can eat the sauteed polenta with beans (seasoned black beans would be very good) or with seasoned sauteed tofu.  This is a great and balanced breakfast- grains, greens, and protein.  I ate it for a week and it was the best thing about my day.  Yeah, hard week.

This recipe is vegan (if not using the egg or cheese for the breakfast leftovers)
This recipe is gluten-free.


When I was little and lived in Iowa they used to sell it in the grocery store deli section by the loaf. Then we moved and I used to beg my mom to find it or make it. Her attempts at the loaf were always a bit loose as she preferred to eat it soft in a bowl with brown sugar. It wasn't until high school that we could get the tubes in the store. It certainly wasn't as nice as the loaves in the Iowa grocery store but they were firmer than my mom's. I haven't eaten it much lately, but now I'm newly inspired as I looooove sauteed spinach. Thanks for the inspiration.

Hi Taj! I like it soft in a bowl first but I always always make the quantity I've listed in this recipe so I can have plenty of leftovers to chill and cut. Mine isn't super stiff when it sets but it's stiff enough to saute or fry or grill. I'll bet what you had in Iowa was stiffer than mine and that can be achieved by lower the quantity of water (or cooking it down for a lot longer) You know it's totally cool that you got loaves of polenta from a grocer in your childhood, right? That's old timey America!

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